Sébastien Loeb (Citroën DS3) has reversed a deficit of more than half a minute to lead Rally Argentina at the completion of day one as Petter Solberg was forced to retire with a broken steering arm.
Loeb, who tops the World Rally Championship drivers’ standings, suffered a succession of spins in the slippery conditions on Friday morning at the wheel of the Citroen DS3 WRC. However, set-up changes at midday service provided the handling and confidence that he craved and he was soon back on top form.
He moved into second place when Solberg stopped on stage four and snatched top spot by going faster than teammate Mikko Hirvonen on the fifth test after Hirvonen struggled to find a good rhythm on the rutted roads. However, with Hirvonen fighting back on the final stage of the day, just 0.1s covers the Citroën drivers starting Saturday’s stages.
While there was frustration for Solberg, stand-in teammate Dani Sordo impressed on his debut for the Blue Oval by posting a succession of top five stage times. He is third overnight, 33.1s behind Loeb after losing ground running a hard compound tire on the damp final stage.
Mads Ostberg is fourth after six stages despite a power issue on stage four and an intercom glitch on stage five. Thierry Neuville was fourth starting stage five but an off left his Citroen with extensive right-rear damage. The promising Belgian plans to restart on Saturday.
It was a frustrating day for M-Sport Fiesta drivers Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tanak as well. Novikov retired with a broken wheel on stage three. Tanak suffered a puncture on stage two and then had to change a broken steering arm on stage three, before going off on stage four and getting stranded in a ditch.
Rally Argentina – Classification after day 1
1. Loeb-Elena (Citroen DS3 Wrc) in 2h20min30.6s
2. Hirvonen-Lehtinen (Citroen DS3 Wrc) + 0.1s
3. Sordo-Del Barrio (Ford Fiesta RS Wrc) + 33.1s
4. Ostberg-Andersson (Ford Fiesta RS Wrc) + 1min18.4s
5. Al-Attiyah-Bernacchini (Citroen DS3 Wrc) + 5min16.9s
6. Prokop-Hruza (Ford Fiesta RS Wrc) + 6min24.2s
7. Mikkelsen-Floene (Skoda Fabia S2000) + 6min36.0s
8. Ogier-Ingrassia (Skoda Fabia S2000) + 6min58.8s