VIDEO | Meeke shows real pace on Day One of Rally Argentina

WRC | 2015 World Rally Championship – Rally of Argentina Preview

Written byMichael Vettas | Images by – André Lavadinho – @tWorld

Rally Argentina is a real test for man and machine as team’s race through twelve gruelling stages with four stages over 40 kilometres long. Rough and rocky terrain will play havoc with tyres and setup across the entire weekend.

Thursday evening saw teams travel to Merlo, 250km south of Cordoba to start the first stage. To whet the appetite of fanatic WRC fans, the first 2.7KM stage snakes through the streets of San Luis.

Sebastien Ogier completed the loop first followed by Kris Meeke and Ogier’s VW team mate, Andreas Mikkelsen.

Friday morning teams travelled to Aschochinga for the second stage, a 51km course which had all teams concerned with the roads being in terrible condition after heavy rainfalls in recent months.

With action in full swing, it didn’t take long for the first casualty to fall with Thierry Neuville and Mikkelsen falling to the same fate of flat tyres, losing two minutes in the process.

Next to fall was Ostberg who stalled during the stage costing him 10 seconds with Dani Sordo suffering power steering failure.

Sebastien Ogier also suffered issues and was forced to stop seven kilometres from the end of the stage with fuel supply problems ending his day early.

Ogier later commented “Everything was running as usual, then after ten kilometres in the first state, we suddenly had a drastic loss of power and the engine didn’t sound good and we had to stop”

Problems struck Hayden Paddon’s Hyundai i20 suffering a number of issues that included a broken gearbox mount, broken drive shaft, leaking oil, a hole in the turbo boost pipe and the exhaust hanging on by a thread!

Paddon said “It was definitely a tough morning for us, after just three kilometres on the first stage; we broke the gearbox mounts which then led to a host of other issues.”

“We nursed the car to lunchtime service but the car’s exhaust manifold was broken, we knew the rally conditions would be rough but it’s even harder than we expected.”

Mikkelsen issues were set to continue with suspension damage in stage two and later a servo pump problem forced him out for the day.

A frustrated Mikkelsen said “Today was definitely not our day, tyre damage turned out to be the biggest possible setback, it would have been better if we had changed the flat tyre straight away”

“On top of this massive blow, the servo pump also broke, our mechanics did a fantastic job; practically built a new car in 30 minutes, but (we) couldn’t keep it in the race” Mikkelsen continued.

Teams made the long trip back to service before returning to complete the second loop of morning stages.

Images by – André Lavadinho

The remaining Volkswagen driver, Jari-Matti Latvala was one of the few not to have any issues after the first two stages. Latvala closed the gap to Meeke to just 15.3 seconds with Ostberg in third a further 36.2 seconds back.

Ott Tanak was the first to suffer problems on the second loop suffering suspension damage after hitting a rock in a water splash forcing him out for the day.

Meeke remained in the lead after Stage four with Latvala closing the gap with Ostberg close behind however Latvala’s luck was about to run out with gearbox issues again a concern losing him 30 seconds to Meeke.

Frustrated with the conditions, Ogier said “What an eventful day of rallying, not just for me, but for the entire team. Conditions were as we expected, extremely tough for man and machine.”

“Power train issues on the fifth stage meant we lost almost a minute to Kris Meeke.” Ogier continued.

Teams then moved to Carlos Paz for two laps of the famous Fernet Branca Super Special.

Meeke showed a cool head to increase his lead by a further 30 seconds, with Ogier continuing to suffer issues dropping 30 seconds and moving him into third place behind Ostberg.

The Citroën driver who leads by 68.4sec from Ostberg stated, “Sometimes things just click in a rally car and today was one of those days with some sections being the roughest I’ve experienced.”

“When the stages are this rough, you must select a pace that feels good but my target remains simply, to have a clean run.” said an optimistic Meeke.

Teams will be ready for the 131.10 kilometres of stages that start at 0600 tomorrow morning at the base of Villa Carlos Paz.

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