Hyundai Motorsport driver Hayden Paddon looks set to take his first FIA World Rally Championship after taking the lead of Rally Argentina.
As the action got under way on the penultimate day, Kiwi Paddon took two stage wins, cutting Jari-Matti Latvala‘s lead to 6.7 seconds before the Finn replied with two stage victories of his own, once again opening up his lead to 14.5 seconds, this would be as far as Latvala would go today though.
As the Volkswagen Motorsport driver passed the 21km point of SS14, he clipped a rock, this saw a heavy crash ensue, thankfully Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila we’re unharmed in the accident, even though the would play no further part in the day.
With Latvala out, Paddon assumed the lead ahead of a chasing Sébastien Ogier, “There’s still a long way to go with very tough stages,” said Paddon. “We have to stay calm because a 30sec lead over a world champion isn’t a whole lot. I haven’t been comfortable this afternoon. Performance wise there’s room for improvement but my consistency is good.”
Ogier battled on throughout the day, despite having to sweep the way in his Polo R as the temperatures rose to 25c, prior to Latvala’s crash the reigning world champion was more than 45 seconds off the lead. With his team-mate out of the running he is now 29.8 seconds behind Paddon, with a possible victory in sight a dramatic battle could ensue tomorrow on the remaining 60km.
Andreas Mikkelsen took a more cautious approach to the day and as a result finished 14.5 seconds behind Ogier, but more importantly 17.7 seconds clear of Hyundai’s Dani Sordo.
Mads Østberg continued on at his own pace to start the final day in fifth place, ahead of local driver Marcos Ligato who climed from ninth place up to sixth on his début in a Citroen DS3.
Thierry Neuville moved up to seventh as he recovered from a bad day yesterday, while Henning Solberg put his muscles to test as the power steering failed on his Fiesta RS. Eric Camilli finished the day in ninth place, with Latvala classified in tenth place, although at this stage it is unknown whether the former rally leader will take part in the action tomorrow.
In WRC2 Elfyn Evans continued to fight back with four stage victories, including an impressive stage 15 win that saw him finish nearly 30 seconds ahead of the WRC2 class leader Nicolas Fuchs. The Welshman was hit with bad luck at one point as he suffered a puncture, he ended the day in fifth place.
Polish driver Hubert Ptaszek brought his Peugeot 208 home after a troubled day to finish the day in second place ahead of Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari.
The final day of action sees competitors take on three stages with two passes of El Condor – Copina punctuated with a run on the longer Clavero – Giulio Cesare stage. Extra points will be available to competitors as they take on the final live TV Power Stage. With weather conditions due to change again, it looks set for an interesting final day of action.