M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt continue to lead Rally Argentina behind the wheel of their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC. With less than 30 seconds separating the top-three in the overall standings, the stage is set for an incredible final-day showdown.
With Ott Tänak in a fine third place, M-Sport are on course for a double podium and have all three manufacturer-points registered drivers in the overall top-four with Sébastien Ogier just behind in fourth.
Proving a force to be reckoned with, the Fiesta has claimed 10 out of a possible 15 stage victories and the team have no intentions of closing their tally just yet.
With just one day of competition left to contest, the team have left no stone unturned this evening – determined to give Evans the best possible chance of securing a maiden FIA World Rally Championship victory.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Elfyn has had a difficult afternoon, so there is only one plan for tomorrow and that will be to push for the victory. He’s put in a fantastic performance and led for two full days so he’s not going to throw it away without a fight.
“We know how good Thierry is and we know that he’ll be pushing tomorrow, but I think Elfyn has developed so much on this rally. When everything has been working well his speed has been untouchable and there’s nothing like that to give a driver confidence.
“As we’ve seen in previous years, anything can happen on the final day in Argentina. But we’re in a strong position. With Ott in third and Sébastien in fourth, we have a good reserve for the manufacturers’ championship so Elfyn can give it everything tomorrow.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt continue to lead Rally Argentina but will have to deliver the drive of their lives through tomorrow’s final stages – their lead slashed to just 11.5 seconds.
The day started well for the Brits who reminded their rivals of their impressive speed by posting the fastest time through the opening stage (SS11).
A couple of punctures through the morning’s two remaining speed tests may have cost the pairing a handful of seconds, but their advantage remained intact at 44.1 seconds come the midday service break. As the crews embarked on the afternoon stages however, the Welshman’s lead started to shrink.
Suffering a spin and struggling with the rear of his DMACK-shod Ford Fiesta WRC, Evans may have lost time but maintained his advantage.
With three exceptionally challenging stages left to contest anything can happen. When comfortable behind the wheel, the Welshman has been untouchable this weekend and one thing is for sure – Elfyn Evans is hungry for victory.
SS11: 6th (+6.2)
SS12: 8th (+14.0) SS13: 4th (+3.2)
SS14: 6th (+15.1)
SS15: 6th (+18.9)
Elfyn Evans (1st) said:
“We’ve not had the best of days with a few issues here and there. Some small mistake from myself and a few little niggles with the car have dented our advantage quite a lot, but it’s still an advantage and it’s all to play for tomorrow.
“We’re here to do a job so we’ll focus on that and do the best we possibly can. There’s still a hard 50 kilometres to go and anything can happen, but we’ll be giving it our all.
“After all the hard work over the past two days, we didn’t come here to finish second. If Thierry wants this victory, we’re going to make him fight for it!”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA
Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja have a clear strategy for Rally Argentina. Having kept a check on their speed through yesterday’s treacherously rough terrain, today’s action saw them launch phase two of their game plan.
Locked in an intense five-way battle for the final podium positions, the Estonians tapped into their speed reserves and made quick work of climbing the time sheets.
A lack of confidence through the morning loop may have resulted in a couple of spins, but that didn’t stop them securing fourth place. A debrief with the engineers delivered a more favourable set-up for the afternoon, and Tänak was quick out of the box.
Posting the fastest time through the second pass of “Tanti – Villa Bustos” (SS13), the determined duo were up to third and focused on second-placed man Thierry Neuville.
With three challenging stages left to contest, there remains all to play for and Tänak is hungry for more.
SS10: 4th (+2.7)
SS11: 3rd (+1.5)
SS12: 3rd (+1.8) SS13: 1st
SS15: 2nd (+6.9)
Ott Tänak (3rd) said:
“It was always the plan to play it quite safe through the first day. Maybe we were a bit too cautious in places, but today it was a lot easier on the car and we could enjoy the driving a lot more.
“I think it was a good drive from us today. We made some quite big changes to the car during service and things got even better in the afternoon.
“Tomorrow will be a really tough day with two very tricky stages. In these stages, 20 seconds is nothing so we need to keep going and keep concentrated. Anything is possible so we’ll keep focused and keep pushing.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Rally Argentina has always posed something of an Achilles Heel for Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, and it seems as though this year will be no different.
No longer having to open the road, the World Champions were keen to make their move on the podium but a strange feeling in the rear of the number one Fiesta prevented them from making any inroads.
The technicians changed the rear differential and dampers during the midday service and a resurgent Ogier returned to the stages with the second fastest time through the second pass of “Tanti – Villa Bustos” (SS13) before developing some unwanted wheel-spin through the closing stages.
There may only be 55.68 kilometres left to contest but on roads like Mina Clavero and El Condor, Ogier can never be discounted and remains poised just over 20 seconds adrift of the podium.
SS10: 6th (+5.8)
SS11: 5th (+5.7)
SS12: 7th (+13.6) SS13: 2nd (+1.2)
SS14: 4th (+2.7)
SS15: 4th (+11.6)
Sébastien Ogier (4th) said:
“We’ve had some small issues today and struggled to find the speed that we wanted. This morning we had some problems with the rear of the car. It felt very unstable but the team changed everything during the midday service and it felt a lot better after that.
“We had a good first stage in the afternoon, but I started to struggle again towards the end of the loop. During the last stage in particular we had massive wheel-spin which knocked our confidence.
“It's not been the day we wanted and we’re not in the best position to fight for the podium, but with these two stages a lot can still happen. Our target will be to get through them without issue and then see what we can gain from the Power Stage. We still have to push, because anything can still happen.”
1. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:53:45.7
2. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +11.5
3. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +26.8
4. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +49.9
5. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:24.6
6. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +4:26.7
7. Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +9:34.3
8. Lorenzo Bertelli / Simone Scattolin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +12:10.0
9. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +13:26.8
10. Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +13:57.5