Elfyn Evans will take a narrow lead YPF Rally Argentina going into the third and final day, over a charging Thierry Neuville.
The DMACK World Rally Team driver began the day with a 55 second lead over Ford Privateer Mads Ostberg, with Neuville five seconds further back, but at the end of the day Neuville had whittled the gap down to just 11 seconds.
The day started with Evans setting the fastest time on the day’s first stage, 0.8 seconds faster than Neuville, whose Hyundai limped out of the stage with a punctured tyre.
“I was too fast for a corner, I couldn’t see the apex because of the sun, missed the braking and hit a bank,” he said.
“We were lucky to get away only with a puncture.”
On the first two rounds a mistake like that from Neuville would have resulted in his retirement, but after his victory in Corsica his fortune seems to have changed.
Neuville then started to chip away at Evans’ lead, first by taking 6 seconds out of it, then 11 and 15 on stage 14.
Evans was hampered by several minor issues such as a puncture, pace note error and losing the rear diffuser after a heavy landing and these problems unsettled him.
This resulted in a spin on the final stage of the day where Neuville was 19 seconds quicker, reducing the Welshman’s lead to 11.5 seconds.
“It’s nothing major, a few niggling things that have knocked my confidence,” Evans said at the end of the day.
“There’s something strange at the rear and we’re getting a lot of oversteer. I had a spin in the last one at slow speed on the power – I’m just not comfortable.”
“A frustrating afternoon.”
Despite this he is not preparing to concede defeat to Neuville.
“We didn’t come here to finish second after all this work, so if he wants the win, he’s going to have to bloody fight for it!”, the defiant Welshman said.
Neuville, who is seeking to become the first repeat winner of the season, is up for the fight.
“The fight tomorrow is going to be hard but it seems like in these tough conditions our car is working well and we hope to benefit,” he said.
“How mush will I risk? We will see.”
Behind them, reigning world champion and current championship leader Sébastien Ogier had another difficult day.
Despite being freed of road sweeping duties, the Frenchman was saddled with an ill-handling Ford Fiesta WRC which caused a spin in a watersplash, sapping his confidence as a result.
This meant he fell behind his M-Sport team-mate as Ott Tanak put in another impressive performance to round out the podium places, winning two stages on the way.
Behind the two Fiestas is Jari-Matti Latvala who spent the day playing with his set-up in order to dial the Toyota Yaris WRC into the rough Argentinian roads.
But there was disappointment for overnigth second place man, Mads Ostberg.
He had lost second to Neuville on the day’s first stage but was still on course for a great result.
However on stage 14 he slid wide and hit a rock which broke the right rear suspension.
After attempting to get the crabbing Fiesta to finish the stage, they were forced to call it quits with just 4km to go.
Kris Meeke restarted day two after his day one roll and set two fastest times throughout the day but then finished his rally for good with another roll.
In WRC2, Pontus Tidemand continued to dominate the category after another trouble-free day.
With a four and a half minute lead to defend, the Factory Skoda driver relaxed his pace on day two, setting one fastest stage time compared to his clean sweep of times on day one.
Behind him overnight second place driver Chile’s Pedro Heller was forced to retire on the day’s final stage with a broken Wishbone on his Ford Fiesta R5.
This promoted Argentinian Skoda driver Juan Carlos Alonso into second, but he is nearly ten minutes behind Tidemand.