Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT’s luck escaped them on the second full day of Rally Argentina: just as they seemed on course to secure another podium finish, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle picked up a puncture that relegated them to eighth place. Earlier on, Craig Breen and Scott Martin were forced to retire after rolling their C3 WRC, whilst Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson continued to rack up the miles and ended the day in fourteenth place.
Yesterday’s weather forecast proved to be accurate: fog was indeed in evidence on the morning loop of stages, and in these kind of unpredictable visibility conditions, it’s easy to go too slowly and get your pace wrong. This is all the more true now that crews are no longer able to see split times in the cockpit. It is therefore a case of who can adapt the best to the conditions and have unwavering confidence in their pace notes.
Kris Meeke proved to be very adept at this exercise in an undoubtedly fast C3 WRC: he grabbed the second fastest time on the day’s opening stage, just 3.8s behind the almost unbeatable leader, clearly determined to hang onto a podium spot. Having also picked up two consecutive third fastest times at the start of the afternoon loop, the Ulsterman held a firm grip on third place when he suffered a puncture on the rally’s longest stage (40.48km). Left with no choice but to change the tyre, he dropped back to eighth overall after losing almost 2m 30s.
Meanwhile, Craig Breen was focusing on trying to keep improving. His splits suggested he was mathcing the pace of the future stage winner on first run on Cuchilla Nevada – Rio Pintos (40.48km) when unfortunately he was caught out by a crest on a corner and rolled the car. He nursed the car back to midday service, but an in-depth analysis of the roll cage, which had been damaged in the incident, concluded it was unfit to continue.
Hampered by running first on the road, Khalid Al Qassimi remained committed to his careful approach, as he tried to improve his handling of the C3 WRC between the morning and afternoon loops. He made to the end of day two in fourteenth place.
Rally Argentina concludes tomorrow with the famous El Condor and Giulio Cesare stages, with huge, enthusiastic crowds expected to line the roads.
WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
“Obviously, it has been a frustrating day because after having once again shown the performance level and reliability of our C3 WRC, Kris was on course to bring home a deserved podium. His aim was to hold onto third place and was certainly not trying to push to close on the second-placed driver. That was the approach we had agreed with him after Craig went off this morning. Sure enough, Craig made a mistake but up to that point he had every reason to be pleased with his performance, compared with the best drivers on this surface, at an event at which he has so little experience. Finally, Khalid managed to keep out of trouble and get some more miles under his belt.”
“There was a stone in the middle of the road and I couldn’t avoid it, given the width of the road. Unfortunately, I got a puncture straight away on the right rear tyre. It’s a shame because I was both quick and consistent, and I clearly felt capable of securing third place.”
“Unfortunately, I turned in a bit too soon on a right-hander over a crest. I realised that I was going to hit a ditch so I tried to steer to avoid it but it was too little, too late and when we landed, we were thrown into a roll. Obviously, I’m sorry for the team, who deserved a better result, and am frustrated not to have been able to complete any more miles at this event, where I’m already short on experience. But I have to focus on the speed we showed at certain points and will aim to come back stronger in Portugal.”
Khalid Al Qassimi
“It wasn’t an easy day for us, mainly due to the fact we opened the road all day, which meant we spent the morning especially cleaning the road for those behind. I enjoyed the afternoon driving a C3 WRC that was more precise, despite making a minor mistake, which fortunately had no serious consequences.”
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
1. Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:58:33.9
2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 46.5
3. Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1:08.2
4. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:59.0
5. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 2:13.8
6. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 2:42.9
7. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 2:49.1
8. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) + 3:20.4
9. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 4:17.6
14. Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) + 17:17.2