RALLY ARGENTINA – 26-29/04/2012 – DAY 3
Having led Rally Argentina since Friday lunchtime, the Citroën Total World Rally Team crews made it to the end of day three to secure an impressive one-two. Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena claimed their seventh consecutive win in South America, just ahead of their team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen. Citroën’s clean sweep means that the team and its drivers picked up a hatful of points for the World Rally Championship standings.
After two long days of racing, the schedule for the final leg of Rally Argentina looked just as packed. Starting at 8 o'clock, the competitors headed off on the Matadero/Ambul test, the longest WRC stage for years. Covered in just under 40 minutes, the 65.74km-long stage didn’t present any major problems for the Citroën Total World Rally Team drivers, who had set off with soft Michelin Latitude Cross tyres. The loop continued with two classics of the South American rally: Mina Clavero/Giulio Cesare and El Condor/Copina. Slightly quicker than Sébastien Loeb, Mikko Hirvonen reduced the gap to 0.2s after SS15. “It doesn’t change anything,” said the Finn on his return to the Villa Carlos Paz service park. “I wasn’t particularly trying to go faster, but we didn't go for the same tyre choice which explains why the gap was reduced. I am now focussed on the Power Stage: I am going to look after my tyres so I can try to pick up points on the last four kilometres.”
“Everything went well for us,” confirmed Sébastien Loeb. “We didn’t make the right decision in opting to fit soft tyres, but it didn't matter in the end. The long stage was… really long. I thought it would go quickly, but I had trouble trying to stay focussed right to the end. The situation is under control, we are going to keep going just the same to the finish.”
As planned, Mikko conceded several seconds on both stages before the Power Stage, which was run on the final few kilometres of the legendary El Condor stage. This time, the Finn pushed hard and managed to grab the second fastest time, securing two bonus points for the Drivers’ World Championship. “This result is perfect for the team and the twenty points I scored this weekend take me back up to third in the overall standings,” commented Mikko. “I’m also pleased with the pace I managed to maintain until Saturday lunchtime. I have made further progress in myunderstanding of the DS3 WRC and I can’t wait to compete in the coming rallies!”
After claiming the 70th win of his career, Sébastien Loeb could also savour his seventh victory in Argentina: “It’s great to get back to winning ways after drawing a blank in Portugal. Everything went really well this weekend. Although the first few stages didn’t go quite how we’d have liked, we stayed calm and in the end we were able to take control of the race. I like Rally Argentina because I have had a lot of success here and because the itinerary is always superb. It is always immensely satisfying to win here.”
“With over 500km of timed stages, this rally was above all a challenge for the cars. Our DS3 WRCs completed 5hrs34mins of stages without the slightest mechanical problem. That is a performance which is down to the men andwomen at Citroën Racing,” emphasized Yves Matton, Team Principal. “After drawing a blank in Portugal, we haveachieved a clean sweep here, which is clearly a great result for both World Championships. I would like to congratulate our two crews, who were able to go quickly when necessary and control their pace when we asked them to do so. It’s been a perfect weekend, which has also seen various promotional events and activities organised by Citroën Argentina. The way in which the subsidiary takes advantage every year of the Brand’s involvement in WRC is quite remarkable.”
OVERALL STANDINGS1 Loeb / Elena Citroën DS3 WRC 5:34:38.82 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroën DS3 WRC +15.23 Østberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3:10.44 Prokop / Hrûza Ford Fiesta RS WRC +9:45.35 Neuville / Gilsoul Citroën DS3 WRC +11:17.66 Solberg / Patterson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +12:02.27 Ogier / Ingrassia Skoda Fabia S2000 +12:25.39 Al-Attiyah / Bernacchini Citroën DS3 WRC +28:22.610 Tänak / Sikk Ford Fiesta RS WRC +37:19.5