Jari-Matti Latvala completed a great weekend at Rally Argentina to take his second win of the season with an emphatic victory over his Volkswagen team-mate Sebastien Ogier by 1m26.9s.
This was VW’s ninth consecutive WRC win, breaking the previous record set by Citroen. Latvala lead the Rally from the end of Friday and continued to extend the gap on every stage thereafter.
Latvala was overjoyed to take victory in Argentina and keep his title hopes alive as the Finn explains: “Last year I finished on the podium but I couldn’t dream to win here, it’s something special.”
“I crashed in Portugal and there was a risk my self-confidence was down. If Ogier won, there was a chance the championship could become boring, but now we keep it alive.”
Defending Champion Ogier won the opening stage of the weekend on Thursday but fell behind Latvala after trading stage wins with the Finn on Friday. Latvala went on to extend his lead consistently throughout the Rally to end any hopes of the Frenchman taking victory.
Ogier lost vital time on Saturday. He spun on the San Agustin stage and suffered a tyre delamination which caused serious bodywork damage which led to overheating issues.
After the opening Sunday test from Giulio Cesare to Mina Clavero, Ogier lost another 16.4 seconds to his rival and was forced to concede defeat. “I never push in this stage,” said a downbeat Ogier. “It’s a lottery in here so I prefer to just drive through. We can’t win all the time but i’m happy because this proves it’s not easy to win. Jari-Matti deserves it.”
Although VW had the top two positions locked off they had been hoping Andreas Mikkelsen could make it a podium sweep, but it wasn’t to be. Mikkelsen suffered mechanical problems on Friday but was able to return under Rally 2 rules.
The Norwegian recovered to fourth but couldn’t overcome the Citroen of Kris Meeke, who was able to claim his second podium of the season. Meeke’s podium charge was helped along by the fact that some drivers suffered serious problems, in particular Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Ostberg.
Hirvonen crashed heavily on Friday which took him out of contention for the lead. He did however show flashes of strong pace with a series of stage wins on Sunday to finish ninth. Ostberg went off on day one and was forced to withdraw with two stages left due to an injured hand.
Thierry Neuville was able to steer his Hyundai i20 to fifth but like so many others the Belgian encountered problems. Neuville had been running ahead of Meeke before he was hit with technical issues on special stage five. His team-mate Dani Sordo suffered mechanical issues and retired permanently.
The M-Sport duo of Robert Kubica and Elfyn Evans also benefited from others misfortunes. The two team-mates battled for sixth place which Kubica held on to despite a late surge from Evans, Martin Prokop’s Czech Ford followed in eighth.
The WRC returns to Europe for round six on 6-8 June for Rally Italia Sardgena.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Jari-Matti Latvala VW 4h41m24.8s
2. Sebastien Ogier VW +1m26.9s
3. Kris Meeke Citroen +5m54.7s
4. Andreas Mikkelsen VW +6m18.3s
5. Thierry Neuville Hyundai +8m25.8s
6. Robert Kubica M-Sport Ford +10m08.0s
7. Elfyn Evans M-Sport Ford +10m32.2s
8. Martin Prokop Czech Ford +12m03.9s
9. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport Ford +19m54.8s
10. Nasser Al-Attiyah M-Sport Ford +23m10.2s*