Argentina: Stobart VK M-Sport Ford - Leg 2
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford crews Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila and Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud have showed exceptional pace this afternoon finishing the 159.16 kilometers of competitive leg 2 distance in strong drivers' and manufacturers'
point scoring positions.
Latvala leads the way in fourth while Solberg sits just 12.8 seconds behind his Stobart team-mate in fifth.
Today's stages were marred by damp weather which created several water splashes making things quite difficult for teams as they navigated through the Cordoba-based mountain ranges.
With the official WRC timing plane grounded due to poor weather conditions, competitors were without split times for the opening five stages of the day. While conditions were by no means pleasant, spectators still flocked to the stages after lost action yesterday due to the cancellation of all seven main stages.
Solberg battled early morning set-up issues and a puncture on the Ascochinga – La Cumbre test to leap from ninth to fifth by the closing of leg 2. The Norwegian was a changed man in the afternoon setting blistering times including a third fastest over the 16.35 kilometre stage 16 test.
22-year-old Latvala had a fairly issue-free run to finish the day in a strong fourth. After using the morning's stages to experiment with new set-up changes the young Finn believed he had the answer, and it showed, setting some speedy times over the closing four stages of the day.
Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr unfortunately retired today just 14 kilometres into stage 10 when their car cut out coming into a hairpin corner and the on-board displays went blank. The crew tried to find and cure the problem but were unable to do so and were forced to retire from the day's tests.
On arrival back into service, the team traced the problem to a severed electrical cable carrying power to the ignition system. The faulty cable was repaired and the car has been re-prepared in readiness for the final day's stages tomorrow.
Leg 3 stages include two classics in Mina Clavero – Giulio Cesare and El Condor – Copina, which at 2195 metres in elevation is the highest of the rally. The stages are technically challenging and renowned for their lunar landscape and unpredictable weather conditions.
All three Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC06 cars will tackle the 82.4 kilometres of competitive route tomorrow which has been extended from it's original distance. Officials have added a second run over the Mina Clavero – Giulio Cesare stage in order for the event to have sufficient distance to qualify for full championship points after the loss of mileage from yesterday's cancelled stages.
I started off slowly this morning but made some changes in service which really improved the car a lot. I got my first WRC stage win here last year and so I knew I would be confident with this afternoon's stages. Tomorrow I will try for fourth position because I really need the points to hold a good position in the championship. Hopefully I will stop making changes with the car now and start driving it fast.
The result today was good and I am very happy that we were able to maintain a pace without any mistakes; this factor is very important to me. Tomorrow is a long day and even longer now there is an extra stage. We made some changes to the rear of the car today and it feels really good now. The stages today were very nice to drive on and there were lots of spectators which made it exciting. Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day because I know Henning is going to be pushing hard to try and pass me!
Obviously I am extremely disappointed. I was looking forward to this event and had prepared really well for it. Our problem happened on the first main stage of the rally when we were braking for a slow corner; suddenly the car cut out and all the screens went blank. I don't know what caused it, it all happened so quickly. We tried for ages to try and repair the problem and get the car started again but it wasn't possible. I really am gutted, everything felt good for the 14 kilometres we completed and the notes were working really well indeed. I remembered the stage from last year and was keeping the car neat through all the slow corners and it was feeling good. I just can't believe how it could have happened.
It was a real shame that Matthew had his problem today. It was bad enough to lose a day of the rally yesterday but to also miss most of the stage mileage today is even more frustrating, especially on these classic gravel stages. He was really looking forward to this event after claiming his first WRC stage win here last year. Both Henning and Jari-Matti have impressed me a lot today; Henning has really improved as the day has gone on and it's obvious that he has much more confidence with the car now. Jari-Matti is on a sensible pace and he knows that he has to finish this rally. They are both well inside the points now in very strong positions which is very encouraging.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team