Petter Solberg (Subaru) led after last night's super special stages and maintained a narrow advantage over the opening two tests this morning. But then Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) moved ahead, stretching his lead with fastest time over the final...
Petter Solberg (Subaru) led after last night's super special stages and maintained a narrow advantage over the opening two tests this morning. But then Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) moved ahead, stretching his lead with fastest time over the final three stages to end the leg 31.3sec ahead of the Norwegian. Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot) was a lonely third all day, the Finn frustrated at not being able to match the pace of his rivals ahead. Harri Rovanperä (Mitsubishi) held fourth early on but a spin and a faulty handbrake cost two places. However, he moved ahead of Markko Märtin (Peugeot) this afternoon to consolidate fifth. Gigi Galli (Mitsubishi) set a strong pace and held fourth until retiring on the fifth stage. He initially stopped with broken front right suspension but made repairs and continued. However, the car then lost drive to one wheel and he retired. Jani Paasonen (Skoda) also retired after hitting a rock in the same stage and breaking his car's front left suspension. He will not re-start tomorrow. Team-mate Armin Schwarz lies 20th after limping through the afternoon stages with a broken damper mount.
It's been full steam ahead for Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and Citroën throughout the long opening leg of the 2005 Rally Argentina which has seen them emerge in front. François Duval and Sven Smeets profited from the day to get progressively back into the groove and an encouraging 2nd fastest time in the final stage enabled them to conclude the leg in 7th position overall.
Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "Being first on the road wasn't a problem. I think the conditions were pretty much the same for the first three or four cars. The 8-compound Michelin BTO tyre we are using here for the first time was perfect. I was able to push hard and I think Petter was pushing hard too."
Francois Duval/Sven Smeets: This event, which marks my return and on which it is so easy to make a mistake, is an important rally for my career. It isn't exactly a pressure-free outing, but Sven and I did well. We both know that it won't be any easier tomorrow, but our objective will be the same: to reach the finish!"
Petter Solberg holds second place on Rally Argentina tonight after a furious day of competition on the gravel roads of the Cordobese Sierras. Solberg's Subaru Impreza WRC2005 ran faultlessly all day and enabled the Norwegian to set the fastest time on two of the Leg's special stages, and smash the previous stage record time on the Carlos Paz - Cabalango test. Subaru's new signing for 2005, Chris Atkinson had a successful and trouble-free day on his first-ever attempt at the Rally Argentina.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "I'm pleased with our performance on the stages today. The Pirelli tyres and the car have been working well. In the afternoon, when the stages were rougher, we tried a slightly different set-up, which didn't turn out as good as that in the morning. This afternoon we also maybe lost some time with a harder tyre than the morning, but we know where to go, and what to do for tomorrow. We have not been taking any chances and we are not giving up on getting back on top again."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "Today was not bad for us and I am happy where we are. The roads were rougher than we hoped, but our pace has still been good. I had a bit of a moment in the last stage today when I took a 200kph jump on slightly the wrong line and landed in the gutter - I was a bit more cautious through the rest of that stage! There's still two long days to go and the stages are faster, and hopefully smoother. I want to stick with Duval and those other drivers who have much more experience."
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen and team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Mozný produced strong performances on today's opening leg of Rally Argentina. Gardemeister's consistent pace earned fourth in his Ford Focus RS World Rally Car while Kresta's risk-free strategy on his Argentine debut was rewarded with 11th in a similar car.
Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: "It wasn't an easy morning. I pushed hard but the times weren't as good as I hoped. I hit a stone on stage four and bent a steering arm but that wasn't a big problem. However, I was lucky on the next stage when I almost slid off the road on a fifth gear corner. I slid wide several times. It was quite muddy in places after last night's rain but the roads dried in the strong wind as the day went on.
Roman Kresta/Jan Mozny: "Our tyre choice this morning was good but this afternoon I made a mistake and chose rubber that was too soft. Because I've not driven here before I didn't know what the best choice would be. I had a good feeling with the Focus all day and it's a shame I couldn't make the most of that this afternoon because of my tyre choice. I've driven carefully because it's a difficult rally for a newcomer. The roads have a hard base beneath the gravel so they were slippery this morning and some parts were rough and rutted on the repeat run this afternoon. Tomorrow morning's stages are much faster so I will try to drive flat out."
Marcus Gronholm has fought like a lion throughout the opening leg of the Rally Argentina, which made up almost 50% of the total competitive distance. Marcus finishes the leg third in his Peugeot 307 WRC, and has promised to push hard again tomorrow. An improved tyre choice for the second loop of stages today allowed him to set a fastest time, as well as three second-fastest times. His team mate Markko Martin, who climbed up to fifth by midday, dropped a place in the afternoon and ends leg one sixth overnight.
Marcus Gronhölm/Timo Rautiainen: "I cannot really be happy with today - I hoped to fight for the lead here and although we set some quick times that has not really happened. I can definitely think of some things we can do to improve the car, and I hope that will help our progress tomorrow. There is still a long way to go and this is a rally that I like so let's see what is possible. I've certainly been pushing hard today and I don't intend to give up easily."
Markko Martin/Michael Park: "Today has been extremely tough. Our road position has meant that we've had to deal with some very rough surface conditions and massive ruts. The afternoon's loop of stages, used for the second time, was really hard work. On the positive side, we've had no problems with the car and we've got every chance of improving our position over the remaining two legs."
The Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team endured a difficult opening day of Rally Argentina, round nine of the World Rally Championship. After ending last night's superspecial stages in ninth place Jani Paasonen was forced to retire on SS5 and will not continue in the event. Team mate Armin Schwarz broke a damper mount on this afternoon's stages and ended the opening leg in 20th place.
Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha: "The overnight rain meant that a watersplash on SS6 was deeper than usual and the water cut the engine. But my biggest problem came just 4kms into SS7 when part of a damper mount broke. We had to limp through all four stages this afternoon. We are lucky to be here at all this evening."
Jani Paasonen/Jani Vainikka: "Everything was going fine until about 8kms from the end of SS5. On a long fifth gear left hand bend there were some rocks inside and when I hit them the wheel broke sideways. We stopped straight away as it was obvious we couldn't continue."
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crew of Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen finished the opening leg of Rally Argentina, the ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, in a fighting fifth position. Team-mates Gigi Galli and Guido D'Amore were running well until their challenge was blighted with broken suspension and then a transmission problem early this morning.
Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: "I'm quite okay with the way things have been today. This morning's spin was maybe my first in about five years; I couldn't believe it! This afternoon I've not been so happy with the damper settings, especially in the bumpy sections where we keep ending up off line. Otherwise, everything has been good and the tire choices were quite right for the conditions. It's good to be fighting and hopefully we can carry on like this tomorrow."
Gigi Galli/Guido D'Amore: "About 12 kilometers into stage five the front right suspension broke. We managed to make repairs and get going again, but then after about one kilometer the front drive- shaft broke and the team decided it was better for us to stop rather than cause more damage. Before that everything had been going well and we were setting some good stage times so I'm confident we can continue like this."