Ott Tänak claimed his first victory in Toyota colours, driving a considered, careful leg to cap a deeply impressive performance on the 2018 YPF Rally Argentina. Tanak’s eventual winning margin was a handy 37.7 seconds, down from the 46.5 second buffer he began Sunday with, but more than enough to deter the chasing pack. The Estonian seemed to absorb the pressure that comes with conserving a lead with relative ease, third fastest through SS16, fourth quickest on both SS17 and the second blast through El Condor, the Power Stage.
The bottom two steps of the podium were occupied by the Hyundai pairing of Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo, the teammates having resolved what had been a fractious battle for second place in the Belgian’s favour. Sordo fought hard but ultimately had no answer for the ever improving speed of his teammate, Neuville fastest through SS17 by 1.5 seconds, fastest through the Power Stage by a further half a second to take the maximum haul of bonus points.
Sébastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen fought throughout Sunday’s trio of stages; the Frenchman was forced to give second best to the Norwegian on the first run through El Condor (albeit by a mere 0.5 seconds) and could only manage fifth fastest through SS17, meaning he began the Power Stage with a scant 3.8 second gap to the third i20 WRC.
Clearly out to make amends for being deposed from first place early on in the rally, Mikkelsen entered the Power Stage with blistering intent, hurling the Hyundai through the iconic boulders of El Condor to set a time of 3:45:31.5. It wasn’t enough though, Ogier faster still by 0.2 seconds to put fourth place beyond doubt and banking second place in the Power Stage at the same time.
Kris Meeke was forced to take avoiding action to miss a dog as he wound his way to the upper reaches of SS18, a split second hesitation which played a part in him dropping to fifth in the Power Stage standings, half a second behind Tanak’s Yaris. Meeke concluded the event in seventh overall, just under twenty seconds behind Elfyn Evans but over a minute in front of Esapekka Lappi in eighth.
Teemu Suninen was every bit as hard on himself as we’ve come to expect, M-Sport’s youngster awarding himself a begrudging 6 out of 10 at the end of the Power Stage. The Finn drove carefully on an event he’d never been to before, crossing the line in ninth..
WRC2 – Rovanperä rolls out of contention
The battle between the Skoda Fabia’s of Pontus Tidemand and Kalle Rovanperä turned sour when the Finn crashed out of the penultimate stage of the rally, the 22.4km of Giulio Cesare. The contentious mistake was lent further significance by the imposition of team orders at the beginning of the leg, Skoda having asked Rovanperä to hold station to conserve the car and ensure the maximum haul of points, something he flat out refused to do.
The heart-stopping incident, one which saw the Fabia barrel roll into the scenery at high speed, could well have been far, far worse; Rovanperä’s car came to rest on a spectator’s Fiat Uno, photos of the latter showing it all but written off. What you wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall during Skoda’s post-Argentina debrief…
The early exit of his teammate left Tidemand to cruise to an easy win, over 7 minutes ahead of Gus Greensmith’s Fiesta in second, the similar car of Pedro Heller in third.
1 – Ott Tanak – Toyota Yaris WRC – 3:43:28.9
2 – Thierry Neuville – Hyundai i20 WRC – 3:44:06.6
3 – Dani Sordo – Hyundai i20 WRC – 3:44:44.6
4 – Sébastien Ogier – Ford Fiesta WRC – 3:45:27.5
5 – Andreas Mikkelsen – Hyundai i20 WRC – 3:45:31.5
6 – Elfyn Evans – Ford Fiesta WRC – 3:46:35.2
7 – Kris Meeke – Citroen C3 WRC – 3:47:54.6
8 – Esapekka Lappi – Toyota Yaris WRC – 3:48:01.5
9 – Teemu Suninen – Ford Fiesta WRC – 3:49:07.5
(14) – Khalid Al Qassimi – Citroen C3 WRC – 4:04:47.2
1 – Pontus Tidemand – Skoda Fabia R5 – 3:55:44.7
2 – Gus Greensmith – Ford Fiesta R5 – 4:03:23.8
3 – Pedro Heller – Ford Fiesta R5 – 4:04:47.6
4 – Diego Sr. Dominguez – Hyundai i20 R5 – 4:11:34.3 (0:50)
5 – Nil Solans – Ford Fiesta R5 – 4:33:28.6