Ott Tanak headed the Rally Argentina leaderboard, recovering from a first stage mistake to snatch the top slot by just eight-tenths of a second after Friday morning’s loop of stages, which concluded with a mid-leg super special stage. Andreas Mikkelsen, who led going into the final short six-kilometer stage, dropped to second with Kris Meeke and Sebastien Ogier just a handful of seconds further adrift.
The fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship got underway Thursday night with a super special stage in downtown Villa Carlos Paz, where Thierry Neuville took the first stage win of the event. Today, however, the crews headed south to the fast and sandy roads in the Calamuchita Valley for the first loop of three stages. Tanak recovered well from an opening stage spin as well as damaged steering and set two fastest times on his way to second before the super special. Here, he inched ahead of Mikkelsen to take a slim advantage into the repeated afternoon stages.
Once again, Tanak is the lead Toyota driver after teammate Jari-Matti Latvala was forced into retirement in the second stage with damaged suspension. Fourth after last night, Mikkelsen moved into second in the first dust-filled opener but hit the lead with fifth fastest in the following stage, caution the name of the game over the rock-strewn roads that claimed Latvala. He maintained a slim advantage over Tanak after the fourth stage and headed into the mid-leg super special stage with just a one-second lead. Such is the tightness of competition, the Norwegian marginally lost out and carries second into the afternoon.
Meeke and Ogier are third and fourth, respectively, just 1.4 seconds separating the rivals. The Northern Irishman thought he had a puncture in the first stage but has otherwise had a clean run through the morning stages. Despite running first on the road, Ogier benefitted in the first stage when hanging dust hampered his rivals and, while he lost his early SS2 lead, the Frenchman is doing well to minimise time loss.
Neuville and Dani Sordo are fighting hard for fifth and the Spaniard overhauled his teammate in the super special with fastest time to take the position by 1.8 seconds. Esapekka Lappi, making his debut on Rally Argentina, is running well in seventh having overhauled Craig Breen in the final stage. The Irish driver admitted to making too many silly mistakes in the morning and also suffered with the handing of the C3 WRC in the final long stage. He is however only 1.4 seconds off Lappi.
Elfyn Evans is further adrift in ninth. The Welshman, who is back with co-driver Dan Barritt after their Rally Mexico accident, admitted to just not being fast enough. His teammate Teemu Suninen rounds off the top 10, the Finn learning the Argentine roads stage by stage.
Pontus Tidemand already has an impressive lead in the FIA WRC 2 Championship category, the Skoda driver over 20 seconds ahead of his teammate Harri Rovanpera, despite the younger Finn winning three stages. Gus Greensmith is third in the category.