M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt have produced a sensational start to this year’s Rally Argentina – claiming six stage victories on their way to a commanding lead at the head of the classification.
Proving untouchable, the Brits have established a 55.7 second advantage over second-placed-man Mads Østberg – the Norwegian making it a one-two for the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC at the end of the day.
Combining speed and strength, the Fiesta has excelled through the challenging terrain and delivered all but two of the fastest stage times thus far.
The Fiesta occupies four of the top-five positions and all five of M-Sport’s new generation world rally cars and safely inside the overall top-eight.
There remains a long way to go, but the opening stages have delivered an encouragingly good start for the M-Sport team.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It has been an absolutely fantastic day for Elfyn – probably the best drive of his career. He put down a fantastic marker this morning and managed his drive perfectly over the afternoon. He’s always performed well here, but his performance this year has been really impressive.
“But to be honest, we’ve seen strong performances from all of the Fiestas today. To have four cars in the top-five, and all five cars in the top-eight, at an event as demanding as this one is a credit to the whole team and just goes to show what a strong package we have produced.
“The championship will be all about reliability this year. If we can keep that up and continue as we have today then I think we’re in with a good chance over the rest of the weekend.”
EVANS AND BARRITT
The FIA World Rally Championship witnessed a coming of age performance from Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt today.
In a league of their own, the pairing have been untouchable behind the wheel of their DMACK-shod Ford Fiesta WRC – winning six of today’s eight stages to take a commanding lead at the head of the field.
From the word go, the Brits have never been out of the top-two on individual stage times and controlled their pace with the upmost precision.
Evans has always been known for his mechanical sympathy and his unrivalled ability to read the road has proved pivotal through the treacherously rough terrain of the Argentine stages.
Delivering what is unquestionably his best ever performance behind the wheel, Evans currently holds a 55.7 second lead with 215.28 competitive kilometres left to contest.
SS1: =2nd (+0.9)
SS2: 1st SS3: 1st
SS8: 2nd (+4.0)
SS9: 4th (+1.9)
Elfyn Evans (1st) said:
“It’s been a really positive day for us – everything has been working well and we got ourselves into a pretty good rhythm from the word go. I’ve really enjoyed the driving and what more can I say…? The car has performed really well and the driver’s not been too bad either!
“We’re really glad to be here with no dramas and in such a strong position. But we need to remember that there is still a long way to go. The stages tomorrow are really nice, but quite challenging and we’re expecting another tough day out there which is always the case in Argentina.
“But right now, it feels pretty good. Tomorrow, we just need to go out there and continue to enjoy it. We’ll try not to think too much about the result and just focus on ourselves as if it’s a brand new day.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia got their Rally Argentina off to the perfect start by winning the opening Super Special in down-town Cordoba yesterday evening. Today’s action would however prove something of a challenge for the World Champions.
Tasked with opening the road, the Frenchmen had to contend with an element of road sweeping which was made worse by the drying conditions throughout the afternoon.
But Ogier is playing the long game. He may yet be to sample the sweet taste of Argentinian champagne, but he knows what it takes to do well here and an all-out attack is rarely the best course of action.
Biding his time, the Frenchman has kept himself in condition for another strong result. Currently holding fourth place overall, the World Champion is poised – just 11 seconds adrift of second position.
SS2: 7th (+17.9) SS3: 4th (+7.1)
SS4: 6th (+11.6)
SS5: 5th (+6.0)
SS6: 5th (+16.5)
SS7: 6th (+2.4)
SS8: 6th (+10.6)
SS9: 3rd (+1.4)
Sébastien Ogier (4th) said:
“Like expected, it's been a tough day and difficult for everyone. Many people had a lot of trouble and, on top of that, we knew that we would suffer from opening the road. We were fighting as much as we could and I'm happy with where we are tonight. We're still in a good fight for the podium and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.
“We will keep pushing and tomorrow should be a much more enjoyable day. These long stages are very beautiful and I'm sure we will have good fun driving them.
“Elfyn has had incredible speed today and no one could match his performance. It's been an impressive drive from him and Dan. If they continue like this then no one will have a chance of catching them. But of course we always need to remember that there is still a long way to go.”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA
Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja delivered an intelligent drive throughout the first full day of competition at Rally Argentina.
Despite adopting a set-up that was too soft for the rough terrain through the opening speed test, Tänak was quickly back on form. Stiffening the handling of his Ford Fiesta WRC, the Estonian went on to post a string of top-three times which saw him climb from ninth to fourth over the course of the morning.
Knowing that an air of caution is vital to a strong result in Argentina, the pairing managed their performance – pushing through the smoother sections and controlling their speed through the rougher conditions.
Locked in an intense battle for the podium, Tänak had the measure of his nearest rivals and looked set to seal third place before a puncture through the second pass of “Santa Rose / San Agustin” (SS8) halted his charge.
Thanks to the strength of his Michelin tyres, the Estonian lost just 6.6 seconds to Thierry Neuville and remains in the fight. Currently holding fifth place, he and Järveoja remain just over 10 seconds adrift of the top-three.
SS1: 9th (+3.1)
SS2: 9th (+22.9) SS3: 3rd (+2.7)
SS4: 3rd (+5.6)
SS5: 6th (+6.4)
SS6: 6th (+19.3)
SS7: 4th (+0.3)
SS8: 7th (+13.7)
SS9: 6th (+4.1)
Ott Tänak (5th) said:
“It’s been a tricky day. We knew that this rally would be hard on the cars and my plan was always to drive quite safely and to look after the car. Maybe we were a bit too cautious in some of the rougher sections, but we made it through which has been the most important thing today.
“On the smoother sections we’ve still been driving quite fast and the times have been okay so I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be able to fight for at least second place tomorrow.
“It’s still all very close and anything can happen. Tomorrow’s stages aren’t as rough as the ones we saw today and they should be easier on the cars – and for sure more enjoyable to drive.
“There’s still a long way to go but I’m looking forward to a good battle tomorrow.”
ELSEWHERE IN THE SERVICE PARK
Elsewhere in the service park, Mads Østberg and Ola Fløene are enjoying a sensational return to the FIA World Rally Championship – currently holding second place behind the wheel of their privately-entered, Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC.
Despite missing the previous two encounters, Østberg has hit the ground running. Regularly posting competitive times, the Norwegian has paired speed with consistency and is on course to secure a strong result on his welcome return to the championship.
1. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:24:55:.4
2. Mads Østberg / Ola Fløene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +55.7
3. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +1:00.7
4. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:06.7
5. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:11.3
6. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:29.9
7. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +3:41.8
8. Lorenzo Bertelli / Simone Scattolin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:13.9
9. Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4:48.6
10. Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +6:32.3