Rally Argentina - after stage 4
Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila won all three speed tests in this morning ' s opening leg of Rally Argentina to lead this sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team pair returned to the event base in Carlos Paz with a 12.3sec advantage in their Fiesta RS World Rally Car after a tough morning ' s competition in the Traslasierra mountains.
The Finns were fourth after last night ' s short curtain-raising special stage on the edge of Carlos Paz. They were quickly into their stride today with fastest times through the gravel 18.23km El Mirador / San Lorenzo special stage and the rock-strewn 23.70km test from Mina Clavero to Giulio Cesare.
Latvala then lowered his Fiesta RS WRC by 20mm for the classic El Condor stage, which this year was run in a revised format with 20km of asphalt at the end of the traditional gravel section. The setting tweak worked perfectly and he was fastest by 9.3sec to stretch his advantage.
His average speed over the final 6km section of asphalt was a remarkable 196.20kph and Latvala said: "It was so fast it was like racing at Nürburgring again. Lowering the car by 20mm meant it moved around less and gave me more confidence in long corners. I didn ' t change tyres all morning because I wanted to ensure they were worn to give a better feeling on asphalt.
"I prepared for this by testing for half a day on asphalt in Sardinia last month using gravel tyres and that gave me confidence. The gravel roads were soft and sandy. There were some small ruts but the loose gravel wasn ' t cleaning so road position wasn ' t an issue," added 26-year-old Latvala.
Team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen are fourth in their Fiesta RS WRC, 20.0sec behind their colleagues. Hirvonen was third through this morning ' s opening two tests, before ending the loop with fifth fastest time. His stage times placed him fifth, but a 60sec penalty was handed to Sébastien Loeb for checking into a regroup early, promoting Hirvonen one place.
"It ' s close at the front and I feel I ' m right there in the fight," said Hirvonen. "I didn ' t enjoy the asphalt. It was sixth gear, flat out driving for many kilometres, with massive cuts in the bends. It was hard on the brakes and tyres and I found it difficult to make pace notes there during the recce. Maybe I was a little too cautious and the car was oversteering slightly too much for my liking."
Drivers now repeat the same three stages before returning to Carlos Paz for an overnight halt.
Leaderboard after stage 4 of 19
1. J-M Latvala/M Anttila FIN Ford Fiesta RS 55min 55.8sec
2. P Solberg/C Patterson NOR Citroen DS3 56min 08.1sec
3. S Ogier/J Ingrassia FRA Citroen DS3 56min 12.0sec
4. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Fiesta RS 56min 15.8sec
5. S Loeb/D Elena FRA Citroen DS3 57min 14.7sec
6. M Østberg/J Andersson NOR Ford Fiesta RS 57min 30.2sec
7. M Wilson/S Martin GBR Ford Fiesta RS 57min 42.4sec
8. F Villagra/J Perez Companc ARG Ford Fiesta RS 57min 58.6sec
9. K Block/A Gelsomino USA Ford Fiesta RS 58min 57.6sec
10 P Flodin/M Andersson SWE Subaru Impreza 1hr 01min 25.8sec
For more information: Contact Mark Wilford or Georgina Finney at the Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team media desk in Carlos Paz Tel: + 54 3541 435135. Images available at www.worldrallypics.com/ford