The sun came out for Hyundai in Córdoba
The El 39° Xion Rally Argentina 2019 had a vibrant and unpredictable Saturday. The sun came out again for the drivers of Hyundai Mobis Shell WRT. Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20 WRC) leads with 45 seconds over his teammate Andreas Mikkelsen (Hyundai i20 WRC). After a penalisatiom of ten seconds to Kris Meeke (Toyota Yaris WRC), the fight for the third place is between Sébastien Ogier (Citroën C3 WRC), Daniel Sordo (Hyundai i20 WRC) and the brit, all three locked up in seven seconds. Tomorrow will be the D-Day through the historical Traslasierra stages.
What characterises this era of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) is the competitive edge among the drivers. It’s almost impossible to predict who could win a championship and even so with such changing conditions as the ones seen this weekend in the fifth round of the 2019 season.
This Saturday Neuville started with a great time in the first pass over Tanti-Mataderos (13,92km), but he couldn’t get a big difference and Ott Tänak (Toyota Yaris WRC) quickly responded with two consecutive scratches in Mataderos-Cuchilla Nevada (22,67km) and Cuchilla Nevada-Characato (33,65km).
It seemed that the Estonian came with all force on to the Belgian but after midday Service Park, things were not as Toyota Gazoo Racing expected. In the second loop through Tanti, Tänak lost 7 seconds and in the following stage his Yaris stopped in the kilometre 10, giving up all the chances of repeating 2018 victory. Even if the team did not manage to communicate with his driver to see what the problem was, Team Manager Kyle Lindsrtom said that the abandonement was maybe due to a failure in the battery or the alternator.
Without his immediate runner-up n the road, Neuville, was able to manage the advantage of almost 050 seconds over the rest of the group in the last two specials of the day. In normal conditions, tomorrow the Belgian should have his second victory in these lands, but there are still 53 kilometers to go in the though roads of the hills where everything can happen.
Fighting for the first place, Meeke and Ogier have a whole battle for themselves. Everything changed getting to Characato when some problems with the breaks made the Britsh to lose more than 35 seconds in the last two specials of the morning. The French driver made a mistake and hit a gate where he damaged the power steering of his Citroën and lost more than a minute.
All these issues and constant performance, alotted Mikkelsen, the winner of Saturday’s three stages, to get to the second position.
And last minute surprises came at the end of the day. The Marshals confirmed, upon seeing the onboard cameras, that Meeke, Tänak and Mads Ostberg had respected figure 14 of page 33 from Road Book Day 2 and they were penalised with 10 seconds each.
In this way, the provisional classification of the Xion Rally Argentina left Neuville at the front with a total of 2h37m23s6/10, followed by Mikkelsen 45s7/10 away. More than a minute away from the leading position and after Meeke’s penalisation, Ogier got the third place but Sordo is just 2s8/10 behind, while the Brit is 7s2/10 from the french.
Ostberg dominates as he pleases in WRC2 Pro and Pedro Heller in WRC2
The WRC support categories continue to give their own show. Mads Ostberg (Citroën C3 WRC) leads the category with wide gap. Gus Greensmith (Ford Fiesta R5) has restarted today but is over 20 minutes away, while Marco Bulacia (Skoda Fabia R5) suffered a heavy crash in the first part of the day and although the crew did not suffer any consequences, damage to the car prevented them from continuing.
Among the WRC2, Pedro Heller (Ford Fiesta R5) is the first, followed by Paulo Nobre (Skoda Fabia R5) and Benito Guerra (Skoda Fabia R5).