After two loops through the Cordoba stadium on Thursday evening, crews negotiated a further eight tests and 155.30 competitive kilometres on Friday. The route took in four stages through the Punilla valley north of Cordoba in the morning, two of...
After two loops through the Cordoba stadium on Thursday evening, crews negotiated a further eight tests and 155.30 competitive kilometres on Friday. The route took in four stages through the Punilla valley north of Cordoba in the morning, two of which were repeated in the afternoon. The La Falda and Ascochinga passes will be run again in Leg two.
Temperatures ranged from 19°C to 29°C . Light rain fell in the morning's loop of stages and skies remained overcast throughout the day.
Petter Solberg holds second place overall at the end of Leg one of Rally Argentina. Solberg was fastest on three of the Leg's nine stages and will start tomorrow's second day of competition less than 20 seconds behind rally leader Sebastien Loeb. On only his second Rally Argentina, Chris Atkinson lies in seventh place.
SS1/SS2: 1905 Super Especial I & II (4.4km)
The 26th edition of Rally Argentina started with a bang in the Chateau Carreras football stadium, originally built for the 1978 World Cup. 45,000 spectators packed the floodlit arena to watch the tight, gravel Superspecial. Crews completed two laps of the circuit as SS1 and then switched sides for a further two laps as SS2. As a spectacular fireworks display lit up the night sky, Subaru's Petter Solberg started in the best possible way by setting the fastest time through the first stage. Chris Atkinson also made a positive start to the rally with the third best time in the second stage. Marcus Gronholm was fastest through the second loop and held an overnight lead of 1.8secs.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 2:26.9 / Gronholm (Ford) 2:25.9
SS3: 0833 Ascochinga - La Cumbre 1 (23.28km)
Leg one continued on Friday morning with the 23km pass between the villages of Ascochinga and La Cumbre to the north of Cordoba. Once again Subaru's Petter Solberg was the pace setter and his stage winning time was eight seconds quicker than that of second placed Manfred Stohl. Solberg's time moved him into the overall lead of the rally with an eight second gap over Gronholm. With light drizzle in the air the Ford driver struggled when his windscreen wipers broke. Solberg's team-mate Chris Atkinson recorded the third fastest time on his second-ever Rally Argentina to move into fourth overall, just 1.4secs from third. Running at the head of the field, championship leader Sébastien Loeb spun midway through the stage and dropped 22secs to Solberg.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 14:49.8
SS4: 0936 Capilla del Monte - San Marcos 1 (22.95km)
The 23km stage was included in this year's rally for the first time since 2003. Crews started next to a lake on a rocky, hard road through gently undulating hills. Loeb took his first stage win of the rally to claw back the time he lost in his earlier spin. He moved up three places into fourth overall, 0.7secs from Stohl. Petter Solberg retained the lead of the rally from Gronholm with the third quickest time, despite hitting a gatepost by the side of the road 1.5km from the start. Mechanically undamaged, his Impreza sustained some bent panels in the incident and a smashed co-drivers window. Petter and co-driver Phil Mills had an uncomfortable drive through the remaining 22km of the stage as dust and grit blew into the car.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 17:27.0
SS5: 1013 San Marcos Cuchi Corral 1 (19.24km)
The third stage of the day took crews from the town of San Marcos on a fast, wide road across the Pampas. After flying over some large jumps crews thrilled the thousands of spectators lining the route with a long crossing over the river Pinto at the stage finish. Loeb posted his second consecutive win of the day through the 19km speed test to vault Peugeot driver Stohl into third overall. Gronholm was 4.1secs slower than Loeb, however his time moved him into the lead of the rally after a badly damaged right rear tyre slowed Petter Solberg over the last four kilometres. Chris Atkinson was not totally satisfied with the handling of his car through the stage's fast corners and his time was hampered by awkward landings after two jumps. On both occasions Chris lost time as he got his car back on the racing line and up to speed again.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 11:39.7
SS6: 1146 Cabalango - Carlos Paz 1 (14.53km)
Run close to Carlos Paz, the stage started on a very fast hard-packed surface before turning onto a flowing road across sand-covered scrubland. Several drivers reported large ruts and rocks as more cars came through the stage. Manfred Stohl broke a rear wheel and Matthew Wilson hit a rock buried in a rut after a jump. Xavier Pons hit a rock at the start of stage and later stopped as a result of the sustained damage. His Citroen came to rest in the middle of the racing line and briefly caught fire. The car delayed some of the following crews, including Chris Atkinson, who lost around five seconds as he drove around the stricken Xsara. Gronholm took the stage win to consolidate his lead, with Loeb moving ahead of Petter into second as the Norwegian picked up a puncture near the end of the test.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Ford) 9:51.9
SS7: 1444 La Falda Villa Giardino 1 (11.77km)
The speed test was reduced to 11.77km for this year, making it the shortest test of the Leg. It was run in the opposite direction in 2006 through the Punilla valley on sandy, rocky ground. Huge crowds of spectators gathered to see crews power through a spectacular watersplash eight kilometres from the start. Loeb carved nearly five seconds into Gronholm's overall lead with his third stage win of the Leg. The Solberg brothers came through the stage third and fourth fastest, with Henning just over a second faster this time. Mikko Hirvonen and Gigi Galli rounded off the top six, with Chris Atkinson ninth in his Subaru Impreza WRC2006.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 7:34.9
SS8: 1529 Capilla del Monte San Marcos 2 (22.95km)
The repeat of the Capilla del Monte stage provided a dramatic turn of events as rally leader Marcus Gronholm stalled at a bend 8km from the start of the stage. When the Finn tried to restart, he was unable to select any gears and he retired from the Leg. Gronholm's troubles benefited Loeb and Petter Solberg who both moved up one place respectively into first and second overall. Manfred Stohl was third fastest to leapfrog Henning Solberg into fifth place.
Fastest Time: Loeb (Citroen) 17:10.8
SS9: 1606 San Marcos Cuchi Corral 2 (19.24km)
On the road section before the stage there were problems for Solberg during a routine wheel change when the jack broke, leaving his car stranded with two wheels off the ground. The Norwegian and co-driver Phil Mills eventually freed the car but were one minute late at the next time control and collected a 10 second penalty. Once on the stage a highly motivated Solberg closed in on Loeb's lead by setting the fastest time - his second stage win of the day. SS9 proved just as frustrating as the previous one for the Ford team when Mikko Hirvonen retired from the Leg. The Focus' engine went down to two cylinders and the Finn stopped to change the spark plugs. When this made little difference, Hirvonen pulled off to the side of the road rather than risk further damage to his car. Galli moved into third overall following Hirvonen's retirement.
Fastest Time: Solberg (Subaru) 11.30.0
SS10: 1659 La Cumbre Agua de Oro 1 (21.37km)
Manfred Stohl took his first stage win of the rally as he came through the slow, downhill stage two seconds faster than Gigi Galli. The Austrian's time edged him closer to securing third position. Petter Solberg has another eventful stage - he lost some time near the start line when he missed a junction and later hit a rock that was in the racing line. The impact holed his car's left-rear tyre and he drove the last eight kilometers with a puncture. Despite these incidents Solberg was third quickest and took almost a second from Loeb's lead.
Fastest Time: Stohl (Peugeot) 18:26.3
SWRT SPORTING DIRECTOR, LUIS MOYA: Overall we're pleased with what we've achieved today. Petter has done an excellent job and even though he lost 14 seconds with a puncture and collected a 10 second penalty after a problem with a jack, his stage wins have proved our competitiveness on gravel. We believe it is still possible for Petter to achieve his target of the rally win. Early in the day Chris found it hard to find a comfortable driving rhythm but after some set-up changes we hope to see some improvement over the next couple of days.
PETTER SOLBERG: It's been a very interesting day, a lot has happened to us, but it's good fun fighting at the top and winning stages, that's where we belong. The gap between me and Sebastien is less than 20 seconds now - of course it's hard not to imagine where I could have been without losing time here and there today, but that's the game and we have two days still to come. I'm feeling very good about things and am really looking forward to tomorrow.
CHRIS ATKINSON: It's been a tough day. We started out well and set a couple of top three times, but struggled this afternoon. The surface was very rutted and the handling of the car has seemed inconsistent - especially on the last stage - because of this we've had to be quite cautious and have lost time. But we'll keep pushing as hard as we can and hopefully move up some places.
NEWS FROM PIRELLI
MARIO ISOLA, PIRELLI COMPETIZIONI RALLY MANAGER: We are very happy with the result at this point in the rally. We have shown that we are competitive and are very close to the lead. It will be a good fight tomorrow and we'll keep our fingers crossed. The tyres have worked well today, particularly the new construction and tread we tested in Sardinia. We made the right tyre choices in both the morning and the afternoon despite the difficult conditions and we hope to continue like this tomorrow.
Leg two will feature a further eight stages and 150.41 competitive kilometres. After a 10 minute service from 0639hrs in Cordoba crews will head north for a repeat of three of Leg one's stages. In the afternoon the field will go to the mountains south of Cordoba for a further five tests.