Rally Argentina

23 – 26 April 2015

 

Red-hot coverage, exclusive background reports, interviews, the latest photos – simply everything on the 2015 Rally Argentina. You are always up to date here.

Sunday, 26.04.2015


Three dramatic days in Argentina. The video.


CURRENT PICTURES (10)
LAST UPDATE: 19:31 (CEST)


Final classification after 12 of 12 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 3:41:44.9    
2 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 3:42:03.0 +18.1  
3 E. Evans / D. Barritt 3:45:12.3 +3:27.4  
4 M. Prokop / J. Tománek 3:48:11.0 +6:26.1  
5 D. Sordo / M. Martí 3:52:31.6 +10:46.7  
6 K. Al Qassimi / C. Patterson 3:53:04.8 +11:19.9  
7 K. Al-Kuwari / M. Clarke (WRC 2) 3:57:47.5 +16:02.6  
8 D. Domínguez / E. Galindo (WRC 2) 4:00:33.1 +18:48.2  
9 G. Saba / D. Cagnotti (RC 2) 4:03:05.5 +21:20.6  
10 F. Villagra / D. Curletto (RC 2) 4:07:04.5 +25:19.6  

21:45 (CEST)

“I will turn all my attention to the Rally Portugal.”
Statements from the Volkswagen team.


Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Naturally I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't get a win here in Argentina at my third attempt. However, it was nothing to do with the demanding and harsh track conditions or the fantastic fans cheering us on and supporting us drivers so enthusiastically. Up to this point Julien and I had enjoyed a perfect start to the season - and this time we were unlucky. That's part and parcel of motorsport and proves that wins are never guaranteed. I don't blame the team at all; they all did their best as always. We'll be back next year and hopefully I will be able to make my dream of a first win here come true.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“It definitely wasn't our weekend - even though I was on course to finish on the podium until right before the end. ‘El Cóndor’ is one of my favourite stages and I had big plans for today. But we had problems with the fuel supply on the way to the start. We tried to repair it, but had to retire four kilometres before the end of the stage. It's a bitter blow for us all, the team and the fans. After three 'zeroes' in the last three rallies I need to start picking up points again. My focus is on Portugal now.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“This definitely wasn't our rally. Tyre damage on Friday turned out to be a major problem, resulting in a damper breaking and then the servo pump. Hindsight is a wonderful thing - we should have changed the flat tyre on the stage. As a result, we had to really go for it on the Power Stage. I risked everything there today and had a good feeling after winning the previous stage on the same stretch of route. But I wanted it too badly, hit a rock and ripped off the rear tyre. Obviously I am disappointed, as I had big plans and wanted to be fighting for the win here. But I will soon put it behind me and turn all of my attention to the Rally Portugal in four weeks’ time.”

 

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport-Direktor

“Our goal for the Rally Argentina was to repeat last year's success. But you can't plan success in sport and every win must be fought for. This time we suffered a few setbacks, which we will learn from. Jari-Matti Latvala's late retirement is particularly bitter since he was on track to finish on the podium until the last minute. We will analyse the problems thoroughly to prevent them from recurring in the future. Our congratulations go to Citroën, winner Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg in second, as well as third-placed Elfyn Evans with his M-Sport Ford. They deserved the win.”


20:12 (CEST)

All dried out.

 

The Finn describes his retirement at the Rally Argentina.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) was visibly devastated. “That was the most difficult weekend since Volkswagen started competing in the WRC,” said the Finn summing up the Rally Argentina. The closing phase was particularly dramatic for the Finn. “On the way to Special Stage 11, about ten kilometres before the start, the engine cut out,” explained Latvala. “I managed to restart it. But it was only running on three cylinders and in stage mode.”

 

In stage mode, the entire engine control is set to maximum performance, while in road mode the car is in conservation mode. However, fuel consumption goes up considerably in stage mode. Uneven running on three cylinders also eats up fuel. But an official pit stop was only planned after the end of the "El Cóndor" special stage, any other refuelling is prohibited. “That’s why we simply ran out of fuel after a few kilometres on the final special stage,” said Latvala describing the early exit, which is no doubt the result of the same defect that caused Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) to retire on Friday.

 

“These components have helped us win 25 rallies over the last two and a half years,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “Two identical defects occurring in the same rally really is bad luck. According to our analysis, it was nothing to do with the extremely difficult conditions in Argentina. This defect could have occurred at any other rally.”

 

Latvala took the retirement sportingly. “With Kris Meeke and Elfyn Evans there were two Brits on the podium, which hasn't happened for a long time. That's a change. In particular, I’d like to congratulate Kris on his first WRC win.”


19:30 (CEST)

Top of the table defended.

 

Sébastien Ogier gets the win on the Power Stage and benefits from his pursuers mistakes.

 

“It feels odd seeing only one Polo R WRC here,” said Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1), as he looked around at the finish line of the Rally Argentina. It really has been a long time since Volkswagen Motorsport last had no drivers on the podium at a WRC rally. Since the Rally Germany in 2013 to be exact. Ogier's personal streak also came to an end. Until this weekend, the World Champion had won five rallies in a row.

 

But at least there was some consolation when he won the Power Stage and picked up the three bonus points. “I really gave it 100 percent,” said Ogier referring to the special stage “El Cóndor”. He risked everything by opting for four soft tyres. “However, I'm surprised that I won with an advantage of 9.9 seconds over the driver in second. But that was because most of the fast drivers made mistakes.”

 

For example, Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9), who showed just how fast he was on Saturday, getting three out of four possible best times. But the Norwegian span and damaged a wheel suspension on a rock. “I’m not blaming Andreas at all,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito, defending the team junior. “Andreas had nothing left to lose and was desperate to pick up the three points for winning the Power Stage. If he had to push the limits anywhere this weekend, this was the place to do it.”

 

Including the three bonus points, Sébastien Ogier now has 84 championship points to his name and remains top of the table with a commanding lead. His new fiercest rival is Mads Østberg (Citroën), who after finishing second in Argentina now has 51 points. Andreas Mikkelsen is third in the table with 47 points.


18:20 (CEST)

Every winning streak comes to an end at some point in sport – it is a law of nature. And laws of nature also apply to Volkswagen Motorsport. The Rally Germany in August 2013 was the most recent event - and only event since Volkswagen's return to the WRC in January 2013 – at which no Volkswagen driver made it onto the podium.

 

An incredible 20 rallies in which at least one of the team from Hannover's driver duos was always in the top three followed. At these 20 rallies, Volkswagen Motorsport celebrated 19 wins and a total of 37 podium finishes. The Rally Germany in 2014 was the only event without a win – Andreas Mikkelsen in the Polo R WRC #9 finished in third place in August 2014, making him the best in his team.

 

So this impressive series has come to an end at the Rally Argentina – it had to happen sometime. But this setback only serves as a great incentive for the trio of Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen to start a new series and to beat their old record.


Last update 17:50 (CEST)

The special stages in detail.


SS 11: Mikkelsen unbeatable; game over for Latvala.
Such bad luck. Only a few kilometres separated Jari-Matti Latvala from what he must have thought was a guaranteed podium finish – but a defect forced the Finn to retire his Polo R WRC on the penultimate special stage in Argentina (El Cóndor – Copina 1) and to finish the rally shortly before the end. Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen, on the other hand, has picked up where he left off yesterday, with another best time. Sébastien Ogier also got a good time. Here's hoping that the two remaining Volkswagen drivers put in another strong performance on the final Power Stage and are able to pick up bonus points.

 

SS 12: Seb wins the Power Stage and picks up three points.
A consolation prize for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia: The two world champions, who were forced to abandon any hope of winning the Rally Argentina early on, drove a commanding best time on the final Power Stage (El Cóndor – Copina 2). Here's hoping that the three bonus points will go some way to lifting the duo's mood after a mixed weekend. Whereas Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene suffered a bitter blow: The two Norwegians, who drove spectacular best times on Saturday, came off the racing line. The Polo spun on the track and reversed into a mound. The rear right of the wheel suspension was broken - game over. Poor Andreas and Ola, better luck in Portugal!


Congratulations to Kris Meeke (Citroën), who got his first WRC win. His team-mate Mads Østberg finished second. Elfyn Evans (Ford) rounded off the podium.


Sunday: the special stages of the third day.

10:00 (CEST)

Saturday, 25.04.2015


Strong day for Andreas Mikkelsen, streak of bad luck won’t end for Sébastien Ogier. Saturday. The video.


Classification after 10 of 12 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 3:14:51.7    
2 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 3:15:30.3 +38.6  
3 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 3:15:55.4 +1:03.7  
4 E. Evans / D. Barritt 3:17:16.3 +2:24.6  
5 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 3:19:42.7 +4:51.0  
6 M. Prokop / J. Tománek 3:20:30.7 +5:39.0  
7 K. Al Qassimi / C. Patterson 3:25:26.0 +10:34.3  
8 D. Sordo / M. Martí 3:26:06.6 +11:14.9  
9 K. Al-Kuwari / M. Clarke (WRC 2) 3:29:06.3 +14:14.6  
10 D. Domínguez / E. Galindo (WRC 2) 3:32:01.7 +17:10.0  

23:55 (CEST)

Keeping the pressure on.
 
Jari-Matti Latvala has not yet given up on second place.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) is stuck between a rock and a hard place. “I would obviously like to attack Mads Østberg,” said last year’s winner before the final service on Saturday evening, referring to the Citroën driver currently 25.1 seconds ahead of him. “Firstly, however, the remaining 33 kilometres of special stage on Sunday are probably not enough. And secondly, I really need the World Championship points I would get for finishing third.”


Under normal circumstances, it would be virtually impossible to make up roughly one second per kilometre. Latvala’s only realistic chance is to force a mistake from Østberg. “I will keep the pressure on. I cannot do more than that.” With an advantage of 1:03.7 minutes, overall leader Kris Meeke (Citroën), is definitely too far in front.

 
Latvala was able to close the gap to Østberg by ten seconds on the only stage that both drivers completed on Saturday afternoon. “I changed the set-up of my Polo R WRC at the midday service,” Latvala revealed. “I wanted more grip on the rear axle. That worked well and gave me more confidence in the car.”


Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) was by far the fastest man on Saturday. The Norwegian won three of four special stages, despite the fact that he was not entirely happy with his tyre management. “I had a flat tyre on the normal roads on the way to SS 10. That meant I did not have enough soft tyres left and had to start with two hard tyres on the front axle and two softs on the rear.” Despite this, he still managed to win the stage. “My goal is to win the Power Stage on Sunday,” said Mikkelsen. “I have saved four brand new soft tyres especially.”


Victory on the closing special stage, and the three bonus points that go with it, are also the goal for Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1). It was to this end that the world champion ploughed on without power steering to complete the final stage of the day – a whopping 43 kilometres against the clock. “If I had given up, I would definitely have had to start first on Sunday. I could have kissed goodbye to any hopes of winning the Power Stage in that case.”


23:50 (CEST)

All the threes for Norway: Two Scandinavians in Volkswagen colours came up trumps today. Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene won three of the special stages fully completed (SS 9 was abandoned following a crash). A glance at the statistics shows that the success on SS 10 was the 33rd stage win for Andreas Mikkelsen in the Polo R WRC. Proof that the young Norwegian and his Volkswagen are forming an increasingly successful unit.


Last update 22:50 (CEST)

SS 9: Cancelled.

Stage 9 has been cancelled after a crash (Hayden Paddon, Hyundai). Crews have been instructed to drive to the start of SS 10, which is scheduled to start at 21:37 (CEST).

 

SS 10: A pair of strong performances.
The second leg of the Rally Argentina drew to a close with the tenth special stage (San Marcos – Characato II). Volkswagen drivers Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala put their foot down again on Saturday’s final 42.5 kilometres. And with great success: the stage win went to Mikkelsen, with Latvala just 2.9 seconds back. The Finn took ten seconds out of second-placed Mads Østberg’s. He now trails the Citroën driver by just 25 seconds with just the final two special stages to come on Sunday. The podium seems a certainty, and second place is still well within reach. Sébastien Ogier’s run of bad luck shows no sign of relenting: the Frenchman was severely hampered by a lack of power steering and once again lost a lot of time.


18:00 (CEST)

Still within striking distance.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala remains in third place as the race for victory heats up.

 

The fightback is still on. Jari-Matti Latvala may not have been able to improve on third place on Saturday morning, but there was at least a good reason for this: a ‘moment’ on the seventh special stage, which gave Latvala and his co-driver Miikka Anttila rather a shock. “There were an awful lot of water crossings at the start of the stage. I was cautious here, in order to avoid damaging my car,” said Latvala. “After that I ramped up the pace, but was a bit too quick in a right-hander. The car hit the bank on the left and spun. We ended up skidding into a field. Fortunately there were no rocks in the way and we were able to continue without any problems.”

 

The #2 Polo R WRC was undamaged, which is more than could be said for Latvala’s confidence. “I took my foot off the gas again after the moment,” the 30-year-old admitted. He currently trails leader Kris Meeke (Citroën) by 1:07.7 minutes. Meeke’s team-mate Mads Østberg is 35.1 seconds ahead of Latvala, behind whom Dani Sordo (Hyundai) closed the gap to just 14.1 seconds.

 

Whilst these kind of time differences would be decisive at other rounds of the World Rally Championship, that is far from the case at this extraordinarily tough Rally Argentina. “It is going to be an exciting afternoon,” said the Volkswagen driver. “I will definitely be out to defend my podium position.”

 

World Champion Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) is first onto the route again after rejoining the race under Rally2 regulations on the second full day. “This morning’s opening stage was really very tough,” said the Frenchman. “That was the case in practice too, when we only drove at 80 km/h. For this reason, the pace notes were not quite 100 per cent right in a lot of places.” Rally pros correct these inaccuracies at race speed. “That is not so easy when you are bumping around on the hard gravel stages,” said co-driver Julien Ingrassia. Despite this, the two Frenchman still clocked the fastest time on SS 7.

 

One stage later, team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) repeated the feat. “I found a really good rhythm,” said the Norwegian, who also rejoined the rally on Saturday. “I am obviously missing battling for a top result. However, I intend to try to win more stages this afternoon.”


Classification after 8 of 12 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 2:30:25.3    
2 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 2:30:57.9 +32.6  
3 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 2:31:33.0 +1:07.7  
4 D. Sordo / M. Martí 2:31:47.1 +1:21.8  
5 E. Evans / D. Barritt 2:32:22.8 +1:57.5  
6 M. Prokop / J. Tománek 2:35:01.2 +4:35.9  
7 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 2:35:13.0 +4:47.7  
8 K. Al Qassimi / C. Patterson 2:38:35.6 +8:10.3  
9 K. Al-Kuwari / M. Clarke (WRC 2) 2:40:37.8 +10:12.5  
10 D. Domínguez / E. Galindo (WRC 2) 2:43:44.6 +13:19.3  

16:15 (CEST)

The special stages in detail.

 

SS 7: Normal service is resumed.

What a start to the second leg of the Rally Argentina! Two of the victims of ‘Black Friday’ bounced back in style on the 23.10-kilometre Capilla del Monte – San Marcos 1. World champion Sébastien Ogier won Saturday’s opening stage in the #1 Polo R WRC #1, closely followed by team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen (#9). Just 0.2 seconds behind the Norwegian, Jari-Matti Latvala (#2) completed the perfect start to the day for Volkswagen Motorsport. Even more importantly, the third-placed Finn was able to significantly close the gap to leader Kris Meeke and second-placed Mads Østberg (both Citroën) – and to open put clean air between himself and the chasing pack.

 

SS 8: Mikkelsen unstoppable, Latvala breaths sigh of relief.

The Polo R WRC impressed again on Saturday’s second special stage. This time, however, it was not Sébastien Ogier who won SS 8 (San Marcos – Characato 1), which had been shortened to 42.50 kilometres, but team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen. The world champion did manage to clock the fifth fastest time. And what of Jari-Matti Latvala? The Finn lost a little time following a spin, but was able to defend third place overall. The Finn continues to trail leader Kris Meeke by just over a minute and second-placed Mads Østberg (both Citroën) by about 35 seconds.


Saturday: the special stages of the second day.

09:00 (CEST)

Friday, 24.04.2015


Jari-Matti Latvala heading for the podium in Argentina, Sébastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen unlucky in difficult conditions. Friday’s action. The video.


CURRENT PICTURES (19)
LAST UPDATE: 23:59 (CEST)


Classification after 6 of 12 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 1:44:47.8    
2 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 1:45:56.2 +1:08.4  
3 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 1:46:11.3 +1:23.5  
4 D. Sordo / M. Martí 1:46:42.0 +1:54.2  
5 E. Evans / D. Barritt 1:46:47.5 +1:59.7  
6 M. Prokop / J. Tománek 1:48:15.2 +3:27.4  
7 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 1:49:54.0 +5:06.2  
8 K. Al Qassimi / C. Patterson 1:50:49.6 +6:01.8  
9 K. Al-Kuwari / M. Clarke (WRC 2) 1:51:34.1 +6:46.3  
10 Y. Protasov / P. Cherepin (WRC 2) 1:53:31.1 +8:43.3  

23:59 (CEST)

“We will fight like Tappara.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala is third after the first leg. But he has by no means given up on winning

 

Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) made it to the service park. The Finn had to make do with front-wheel drive on the final kilometres of Friday’s leg. But thanks to going easy on the accelerator he managed to avoid completely overloading the drive train and to overcome the liaison stage between the final special stage and the service park. The repair poses no problem for the mechanics in the available 45 minutes.

 

Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila start Saturday's leg in third place, 1:23.5 minutes behind front-runner Kris Meeke (Citroën) and 15.1 seconds behind his team-mate Mads Østberg. “This rally is far from over, a lot can happen,” said Latvala on his way into service. And went on to say, in reference to Anttila’s favourite ice hockey team who are currently battling to win the Finnish championship: “We will fight like Tappara.”

 

Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) and Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9) will also go on the attack again on Saturday. Their cars are already in the mandatory parc fermé, fully repaired and ready for the restart for the second leg. The diagnosis for Ogier’s car was that a defect in the fuel supply caused the engine problems on Special Stage 2. Mikkelsen's Polo R WRC was fitted with a new power steering pump.


23:10 (CEST)

The number 13 is considered to be unlucky in many cultures. There are even people who are terrified of this number, they suffer from triskaidekaphobia. This doesn’t apply to Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala, but the number 13 plays a central role for the two Volkswagen drivers this weekend.

 

First, there’s the double world champion, who has won almost all of the rallies on the current WRC calendar during his career – twelve of them at least. Ogier only needs the number 13, the Rally Argentina, to complete his extensive collection. And after retiring on the first leg, he won't get the win in South America this year either.

 

However, after the first six of a total twelve special stages, Latvala is still in with a chance: In third place in the overall standings, the Finn’s hopes of getting his first win of the 2015 season are still alive – it would be the 13th win overall in the 30-year-old's WRC career. Here's hoping that Latvala doesn't start suffering from triskaidekaphobia.


Last update 23:00 (CEST)

The special stages in detail.

 

SS 4: Latvala consolidates his second place.

Argentina is always an adventure - and the Volkswagen Motorsport team felt the full effects of that today. After the problems of Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) and Andreas Mikkelsen (#9), all hopes now rest on last season's runner-up Jari-Matti Latvala (#2). And the Finn was impressive on the fourth special stage, the 51.99-kilometre Agua de Ora - Ascochinga 2, with a strong performance. The 30-year-old was the second fastest to cross the line, behind overall leader Kris Meeke (Citroën), allowing him to consolidate his second place in the overall standings. Mads Østberg (Citroën) in third place already trails Latvala by more than half a minute.

 

SS 5: It was the runner-up’s turn to falter.

For a long time it looked like Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) would get the best time on the 19.71-kilometre special stage Villa Bustos – Tanti 2. But the Volkswagen driver suddenly lost more than 20 seconds on the final metres. "We had a problem with the transmission," said the Finn after the finish line. At least Latvala remains second in the overall standings – behind Kris Meeke and ahead of Mads Østberg (both Citroën). Now the runner-up just needs to survive the 6.04-kilometre Super Special Stage to round off Friday's action.

 

SS 6: End of the leg reached.

There were just 6.04 kilometres of the Super Special Stage, which brought the first leg of the Rally Argentina to a close. But this track must have felt like a marathon to Jari-Matti Latvala. Suffering transmission problems with his Polo R WRC #2, the Volkswagen driver dragged his way through Special Stage 6 and finished with a deficit of more than 30 seconds to the leading pack. But at least Latvala is still third in the overall standings - meaning that anything is possible for the 30-year-old over the next two days.


19:40 (CEST)

Without warning.

 

Sébastien Ogier describes the moments before his retirement on special stage 2.

 

Six hours after he stopped the engine of his Polo R WRC shortly before the end of Special Stage 2, Sébastien Ogier returned to the service park in Carlos Paz. "The first ten kilometres were perfectly normal," said the World Champion looking back at the morning. "Then the car suddenly lost power and it sounded like it was only running on three cylinders." Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia were initially able to keep going, albeit at a reduced speed.

 

But the two World Champions' hopes of reaching the finish were dashed. "After about 45 kilometres, the car kept on losing power, then the engine cut out completely." Ogier and Ingrassia used the on-board alarm electronics to try and find the problem. "Unfortunately it didn't work."

 

The Polo R WRC with car number 9 isn't back in service yet, so the engineers haven't started an in-depth analysis. "If we're lucky, it's only a faulty sensor or a problem with the fuel supply. Then we will probably be able to drive again tomorrow," said Ogier.

 

However, he isn't expecting to be able to pick up any championship points. With a penalty of 35 minutes for missing five special stages, it is unlikely that he will finish in the top ten in the overall standings. "And based on our bad ranking, our starting position for the Power Stage on Sunday will be so bad that it will be extremely difficult to win on that stage too."


18:50 (CEST)

Andreas Mikkelsen forced to retire for the day.

 

Bitter blow for Andreas Mikkelsen and the Volkswagen Motorsport team. The Norwegian in the Polo R WRC #9 experienced problems on Friday morning - on the way to the fourth special stage of the Rally Argentina he was forced to finish the first leg early.

 

The reason: The power steering on Mikkelsen's Polo failed. As a result, the team decided not to contest the final three special stages on Friday. The Volkswagen driver will restart under Rally 2 regulations on Saturday.


17:45 (CEST)

As tough as the Acropolis Rally.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala keeps a cool head to stay within striking distance of the leader.

 

Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2) could find only one fitting comparison: “The first 22 kilometres were at least as tough as the Acropolis Rally used to be,” said the Finn, describing the situation facing the drivers on Friday’s opening stage. “Stones all over the road, a surface that had been eroded right down to the living rock in places, and a lot of slow corners.” Latvala’s experience of the Rally in Greece, which no longer features on the World Championship calendar, appeared to help him pace himself in Argentina. Latvala was one of a handful of drivers to come through the 52-kilometre stage from Agua de Oro to Ascochinga without any major problems. “I tried to avoid every stone,” he said.

 

Latvala then won the next special stage to close the gap on overall leader Kris Meeke (Citroën). “In my opinion, this stage is the nicest on the entire rally. The first twelve kilometres remind me a lot of Finland – you are constantly driving at high speed over bumps,” said Latvala, who reached the midday service in Carlos Paz trailing the Northern Irishman by 15.3 seconds.

 

While Jari-Matti Latvala’s Polo R WRC requires little more than a routine service, the pressure is on for Andreas Mikkelsen’s (Polo R WRC #9) mechanics. “I had a puncture on the first stage this morning,” said the Norwegian. “We drove for about 25 kilometres with a flat tyre on the front right. By the finish, we were down to the rim. That probably did some damage to the shock absorber.” The result was an initial time loss of almost two minutes.

 

Mikkelsen and co-driver Ola Fløene changed the tyre in question before the start of SS 3. However, a few kilometres into the second stage of the day, the upper mount of the shock absorber broke. Mikkelsen was forced to drastically reduce his speed and consequently lost another three minutes on the stage.

 

The two Norwegians performed emergency repairs at the end of the special stage using lashing straps and cable ties. This allowed them to keep the number 9 Polo R WRC in the race. However, it did cause them to reach the time control ahead of the midday service two minutes too late. Unfortunately the rules demand that this be punished with a time penalty of 20 seconds.

 

Even before they arrived at the midday service, the mechanics had already changed the windscreen – for safety reasons one of the few pieces of work permitted outside the official service area. The remaining 30 minutes of service time were sufficient to have Mikkelsen’s car virtually as good as new again. Mikkelsen/Fløene are currently 13th, almost five minutes off the lead.

 

Sébastien Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia (Polo R WRC) were still not back in Carlos Paz by this point. The two Frenchmen, who were forced to pull over and retire with a technical problem shortly before the end of SS 2, are being picked up by the team. The organisers will bring the Polo R WRC back to the service. However, this could take several hours yet.


Classification after 3 of 12 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 51:27.0    
2 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 51:42.3 +15.3  
3 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 52:03.2 +36.2  
4 O. Tänak / R. Mõlder 52:27.5 +1:00.5  
5 E. Evans / D. Barritt 52:38.0 +1:11.0  
6 D. Sordo / M. Martí 52:43.0 +1:16.0  
7 M. Prokop / J. Tománek 53:02.4 +1:35.4  
8 H. Paddon / J. Kennard 53:12.2 +1:45.2  
9 Y. Protasov / P. Cherepin (WRC 2) 53:43.6 +2:16.6  
10 K. Al Qassimi / C. Patterson 54:26.5 +2:59.5  

Last update 16:10 (CEST)

The special stages in detail.

 

SS 2: What a dramatic start to Friday’s action.

At just short of 52 kilometres, Agua de Ora – Ascochinga 1 is the longest special stage on the rally. And it turned out to be an absolute monster, causing the drivers more than their fair share of problems. World champion Sébastien Ogier was doubly unlucky, first taking a wrong turning before grinding to a halt with technical problems 45 kilometres into the stage in his Polo R WRC. Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen spun on the route and lost a lot of time with a puncture. However, he was able to make it to the finish. Only the third of the Volkswagen trio made it through the stage without any major problems: Jari-Matti Latvala produced a clean run to clock the third fastest time for the stage, behind Kris Meeke (Citroën) and Dani Sordo (Hyundai).

 

SS 3: Latvala climbs into second place overall.
Jari-Matti Latvala produced a strong drive to win the third special stage (Villa Bustos – Tanti) and climb into second place behind overall leader Kris Meeke (Citroën). The Finn enjoyed another trouble-free stage, while team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen again struggled with technical problems: a faulty suspension – possibly caused by the puncture on the previous stage – forced the youngster to take a cautious approach. This was compounded by a slight collision with Thierry Neuville (Hyundai), who failed to see the slower Norwegian in time. Meanwhile, Sébastien Ogier’s rally is over for today. The Frenchman will return to action tomorrow under Rally2 regulations.


Friday: the special stages of the first day.

09:00 (CEST)


Despite the extremely tough conditions, the Volkswagen drivers are looking forward to the Rally Argentina after the long break. The video.


Current Pictures (10)
Last update: 01:05 (CEST)


Classification after 1 of 12 stages

Position Driver / Co-driver Total Time Diff 1st  
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia 2:32.0    
2 A. Mikkelsen / O. Fløene 2:32.2 +0.2  
2 K. Meeke / P. Nagle 2:32.2 +0.2  
4 J. Latvala / M. Anttila 2:32.3 +0.3  
5 D. Sordo / M. Martí 2:33.0 +1.0  
6 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul 2:33.1 +1.1  
7 L. Bertelli / G. Bernacchini 2:33.6 +1.6  
8 M. Østberg / J. Andersson 2:33.8 +1.8  
9 H. Paddon / J. Kennard 2:34.8 +2.8  
10 O. Tänak / R. Mõlder 2:35.5 +3.5  
10 M. Prokop / J. Tománek 2:35.5 +3.5  

00:30 (CEST)

Perfect prologue for the world champion.

 

The 45-day break from rallying is finally over, and the Volkswagen drivers could hardly have made a better start to round four in Argentina: world champion Sébastien Ogier, in the #1 Polo R WRC, sent a clear message to his rivals with the fastest time on the opening 2.68-kilometre super special stage in Merlo.

 

The Frenchman won SS 1 with a time of 2:32.0 minutes, two tenths of a second faster than team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen in the #9 Polo R WRC and Britain’s Kris Meeke, who clocked exactly the same time as the Norwegian in his Citroën. They were followed just one tenth of a second back by Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala in fourth place in the #2 Polo R WRC.

 

The Rally Argentina really gets up and running on Friday, when the teams and drivers face long special stages and difficult conditions. Heavy rainfall in recent weeks has washed away the gravel and exposed stones on many sections. At other points the surface is extremely muddy, with some special stages even having to be shortened.

Thursday, 23.04.2015


The first special stage in Argentina.

14:00 (CEST)

Wednesday, 22.04.2015


23:59 (CEST)

Almost like being at the Safari Rally.

 

Ogier went fastest in the Shakedown. But the actual rally promises to be much, much tougher.

 

Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) shared the fastest time of the Shakedown with Kris Meeke (Citroën), but the World Champion refused to read too much into this with regard to the actual rally. “The route of the Shakedown was in relatively good condition. However, heavy rain in recent weeks has made the special stages extremely tough,” said Ogier. “It will just be a matter of staying in the race, particularly on day one.”

 

Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen (Polo R WRC #9), who clocked the third fastest time, was of a similar opinion. “It is a bit like the Safari Rally,” said the Norwegian, referring to the former WRC event in East Africa, which no longer features on the World Championship calendar. “It will be important to find the right balance between speed and looking after the car.”

 

Special stages three, five, eight and ten have been shortened due to the damaged gravel roads. During the practice, even heavy salvage vehicles became stuck on some of these. The drivers will treat the first “real” special stage – after the short super special on the streets of Merlo on Thursday - with great respect, when the action begins in earnest on Friday. SS 2/4 from Agua de Oro to Ascochinga is a full 52 kilometres long. “The first 23 kilometres are possibly the toughest on the rally,” said last year’s winner Jari-Matti Latvala (Polo R WRC #2).

 

This year, the drivers must pace themselves without any split times, and thus no direct information on how the opposition is faring. “Furthermore, it is now more than a month since the Rally Mexico. It will not be easy to find the right rhythm from the word go,” said Latvala, who allowed himself four runs at the Shakedown for precisely this reason, ending the free practice session in fifth place.


17:30 (CEST)

Incessant rain takes its toll: Rally Argentina to be shortened.

The organisers of Rally Argentina have had to have a rethink shortly before the start of the event. The heavy rain that has hit the area recently means a number of the special stages can’t be driven as originally planned. Two stretches – and therefore a total of four stages – are affected.

 

The Villa Bustos–Tanti stage (SS 3 and SS 5) has had to be reduced from 20.31 to 19.71 kilometres. The rainfall has had an even bigger impact on the marathon stretch between San Marcos and Characato (SS 8 and SS 10): originally 56.77 kilometres long, the first 14.27 kilometres of the stage have had to be cancelled. The start has been relocated and the stage now measures just 42.50 kilometres.

 

As a result, the total length of Rally Argentina has been reduced by 29.74 kilometres, from the original 345.70 time kilometres to a new distance of 315.96 kilometres.


You will find the full Rally Argentina schedule here.


The shakedown in Argentina.

14:00 (CEST)

Tuesday, 21.04.2015


Time to finally eradicate that last blemish.

 

There’s one last piece of the puzzle that the reigning world champion is missing – Argentina. To say it’s a blot on his copybook would perhaps be going overboard, but it is nevertheless something of a blemish in the otherwise perfect career of Sébastien Ogier: to date, the two-time world champion has never won this South American rally. This has got to be my year at last, the Volkswagen driver is presumably thinking. After all, Ogier has dominated the 2015 season so far, winning the first three races, and is therefore the hot tip for a win in Argentina after a break in the WRC of almost seven weeks.

 

But the Frenchman only succeeded in winning nine special stages in the last two years in Argentina – and that’s usually his spoils over a single weekend. Coming second twice and scoring five bonus points in the power stages in both 2013 and 2014 are a good track record – but he still lacks a win as the icing on the cake.

 

Things look very different for Ogier’s teammate Jari-Matti Latvala. The Finn scored his first victory in Argentina in the last season and intends to repeat this success this year. Having come second in Monte Carlo, the 30-year-old has subsequently gone empty-handed in the drivers’ championship in the last two rallies – so things can only get better for Latvala.

 

And what of the third Volkswagen driver? Andreas Mikkelsen has got over only narrowly missing out on his first WRC victory in Sweden and recently scored his third consecutive third place this year, in Rally Mexico. But the ambitious Norwegian has already made it clear that he is not willing to make do with the lower steps of the podium for much longer. Everything is therefore set for an exciting weekend of thrilling duels.

Sunday, 19.04.2015


Spring break is over – welcome back.

 

After a break of more than a month, the WRC gets back under way in Argentina.

 

There will have been an unusually long break of almost a month and a half between the last WRC event in Mexico and the upcoming Rally Argentina. Among other things, the drivers made the most of the gap created by Rally Portugal being moved in the calendar by going on holiday. Reigning world champion Sébastien Ogier (Polo R WRC #1) went skiing, while his teammates Jari-Matti Latvala (#2) and Andreas Mikkelsen (#9) both spent some time in the sun in the USA, on the west coast and east coast respectively. Things then got back to normal for the Volkswagen Motorsport trio with some extensive test driving.

 

The three drivers intensively geared themselves up for Argentina’s gravel tracks – Ogier and Latvala in the south of Spain, and Mikkelsen at opencast mining sites in the German region of Lusatia. “I’ve never won this rally,” says Ogier. “And I want to change that.” One of his sources of motivation is that success in Argentina would allow France to eclipse Finland in terms of rally wins – both countries currently have a tally of 172 WRC rally victories.

 

There are ‘only’ 345 kilometres spread over twelve special stages this year, compared with last year’s 405 kilometres in Argentina. The event organisers have chosen not to change the route of Rally Argentina, in spite of the flooding that hit large parts of the province of Córdoba a few weeks ago. “Most of the people here are enthusiastic rally fans. Holding the rally as planned is our way of showing our moral support to the locals who have been affected and of taking their minds off their worries at least for a short while,” says the head of organisation David Eli.

 

It’s a fact that around a million fans line the route of Rally Argentina every year. “The enthusiasm of the Argentinian fans is incredible,” says last year’s winner Latvala. The backdrop is one of a kind too. The route takes the drivers through gentle valleys with lush pastures on either side and also across a rocky moonscape at altitudes of more than 2,000 metres on the edge of the Andes. Villa Carlos Paz, where the service park will be set up right by a reservoir, is a popular holiday destination. Although it’s shorter this year, Rally Argentina will still be a tough cookie, for example featuring two of the longest stages of the year.

 

On Friday, a distance of 52 kilometres will be covered twice, on gravel tracks between Agua de Oro and Ascochinga in the Sierras Chicas mountains. And on Saturday, the distance is two runs of 57 kilometres between San Marcos and Characato. The super special stage in Villa de Merlo at the beginning of the rally on Thursday is entirely new. Sunday’s proceedings are then all about the classic stage, El Cóndor.

 

The second run will be a power stage with bonus WRC points up for grabs. “It’s usually foggy there,” says Andreas Mikkelsen. “To be as prepared as I can possibly be for it, I make a note of various alternatives in the pace notes during training.” In 2014, temperatures barely above zero and tracks that were turned into mud by the rain were a big reminder that it’s currently late autumn in Argentina in the southern hemisphere.

Friday, 17.04.2015


“You can smell the fans’ barbecues in the cockpit.”
Statements from the Volkswagen team.


Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“I have never won the Rally Argentina, and would obviously like to stand on the very top step of the podium there for the first time. The atmosphere is excellent. The South Americans love their motorsport. It is the only rally, at which you can actually smell the fans’ barbecues in the cockpit when you are out on the special stages. I have been told that France pulled level with Finland in the all-time list thanks to my victory at the Rally Mexico. The goal now is obviously to move into the lead! However, we have seen at recent rallies that the opposition at Hyundai and Citroen are closing in and battling for victory with us. Compared to Mexico, the surface at the Rally Argentina is not as aggressive on the tyres and the temperatures are far lower. We would usually all use the softer compounds. We are unlikely to see any tactical games like we did in Mexico, when we opted for a crossover of hard and soft tyres.”

 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“I am really looking forward to the Rally Argentina. It is a gravel rally, but very different to the Rally Mexico. The surface in Argentina is far sandier, not as hard, and there is far more grip. My favourite special stage is ‘El Cóndor’, which forms the Power Stage, as it did in 2014. Miikka and I won here last year. We’ll have to wait and see whether we can repeat that feat – Sébastien Ogier is very strong at the moment. I have had a bit of time to relax and switch off since the Rally Mexico. I spent two weeks in the USA, where my girlfriend and I took a road trip through California and Nevada. I also had cause to celebrate: I reached the big ‘three-oh’, so we threw a small party. Small, because we had a fitness test in Lapland afterwards, in order to ensure we are as well prepared as possible for the Rally Argentina.”

 

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“The Rally Argentina is one of my favourites. I have always had good results and shown good pace there. I expect us to finish on the podium this year – as we have done at the recent rallies. That is definitely my goal. In 2014 we lost a lot of time due to a problem with the light machine, but were still able to fight our way back to fourth place. This year we will encounter a lot of new sections. When you look at past rallies in Argentina, soft tyres have been used most of the time. I think that will be the best option again this time, despite the changes to the special stages. However, we will only really be able to judge that after the ‘Recce’. We will obviously have to be ready for fog again. For this reason, we note down alternatives when we are doing the pace notes – just to ensure we are particularly well prepared. The long break has done me good, but I am now really looking forward to getting back in the car.”