Toyota’s Ott Tänak consolidated his position at the head of the 38. YPF Rally Argentina 2018 on the second day of the event, carving out a 46.5 second buffer to the Hyundai of Thierry Neuville thanks to a spellbinding performance on Saturday’s fog-bound set of stages.
The Estonian began the leg with a healthy lead of more than twenty-two seconds, a legacy of his impressive run on Friday afternoon.
Clearly not content to rest on his laurels, Tänak defied the foggy conditions that blighted the morning loop of stages to end the morning a full forty-two seconds to the good, a margin he eeked out by 4.3 seconds by the end of the day’s action, and despite a joint PAS and damper failure on the final test of the day, Cuchilla Nevada.
Kris Meeke found himself promoted up the leaderboard thanks to a mix of pure pace and the poor fortune of his rivals (Jari-Matti Latvala‘s suspension and oil way damage, punctures for Esapekka Lappi and Andreas Mikkelsen), but the Northern Irishman tumbled down the order Cuchilla Nevada thanks to a puncture of his own, ultimately plummeting to eighth.
Meeke’s poor fortune left the door open for the battling Hyundai duo of Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo, the Belgian cementing his hold on the bottom step of the podium as Saturday wore on. Neuville ended the day 46.5 seconds behind the lead Toyota and 21.7 seconds ahead of his teammate.
Sebastien Ogier‘s relatively anonymous rally continues, the Frenchman moving up to fourth overall due to the retirement of Craig Breen (The Irishman was forced out thanks to a damaged roll cage, the result of a roll on SS11), the reigning champion just under fifteen seconds ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen in fifth.
Speaking at the end of SS15, the downbeat champion commented, “I didn’t really lose any time on this one, I don’t care about the splits to Sordo – he’s already one minute ahead!”
Cuchilla Nevada bore witness to another Esapekka Lappi assault, the youngest Yaris driver overhauling Elfyn Evans for sixth on its 40.4kms, though the Welshman will start the final day with a solid half a minute gap to the Citroen C3 WRC of Meeke.
Teemu Suninen concluded Saturday just under a minute behind Meeke and a full 6:32 behind Tanak, the Finn still learning his craft on this side of the Atlantic.
WRC2 – Scandinavians go head-to-head
The Skoda duo of Kalle Rovenperä and Pontus Tidemand spent Saturday locked in a fascinating fight for tenth, the young Finn emerging victorious thanks to a stunning run through SS11, the first pass through Cuchilla Nevada-Rio Pintos.
“We are going quite well, but we have to really push because Pontus is doing well. I just played it safe, I didn’t want to get a puncture. It’s going to be interesting tomorrow.” commented Rovenperä
Rovenperä was over half a minute faster than his Swedish teammate, and while Tidemund fought back over the course of the afternoon he remains a full 23.2 seconds adrift in eleventh, albeit over two minutes ahead of Gus Greensmith in twelfth.
WRC standings after SS15
1 – Ott Tanak – Toyota Yaris WRC – 2:58:33.9
2 – Thierry Neuville – Hyundai i20 WRC – 2:59:20.4
3 – Dani Sordo – Hyundai i20 WRC – 2:59:42.1
4 – Sébastien Ogier – Ford Fiesta WRC – 3:00:32.9
5 – Andreas Mikkelsen – Hyundai i20 WRC – 3:00:47.7
6 – Esapekka Lappi – Toyota Yaris WRC – 3:01:16.8
7 – Elfyn Evans – Ford Fiesta WRC – 3:01:23.0
8 – Kris Meeke – Citroen C3 WRC – 3:01:54.3
(14) – Khalid Al Qassimi – Citroen C3 WRC – 3:15:51.1
WRC2 standings after SS15
1 – Kalle Rovenperä – Skoda Fabia R5 – 3:09:24.1
2 – Pontus Tidemand – Skoda Fabia R5 – 3:09:47.3
3 – Gus Greensmith – Ford Fiesta R5 – 3:11:51.8
4 – Pedro Heller – Ford Fiesta R5 – 3:17:00.3
5 – Diego Sr. Dominguez – Hyundai i20 R5 – 12:57.8 (0:50)
6 – Gustavo Saba – Skoda Fabia R5 – 3:29:49.9
7 – Nil Solans – Ford Fiesta R5 – 3:45:43.2