- Ott Tanak is Frighteningly Fast
- Mikkelsen loses lead and confidence to puncture
- Meeke loses another certain podium to puncture
- Ogier can’t do much from RO1
- Neuville does brilliant from RO2 – upstaged by Tanak
Ott Tanak – Winner
Tanak was unmatched for most of Rally Argentina with a pace that lead to his first victory of the season. A spin on Stage 2 wasn’t enough to knock his confidence and he smashed 10 stage wins to effective win Argentina by Saturday evening. Even on the stages he didn’t win he only lost tiny amounts of time to the stage winner. Even two of these ‘losses’ were the Super Special Stage at Fernet Branca. Imagine if he hadn’t had that spin on Stage 2 how close to zero his pace line would be. By the end of Stage 14 cautionary sense kicked in, or that of the voice of team principal Tommi Makinen. He began to cruise through for the top step of Sunday’s podium.
No other driver has such a flat line, it is frightening! Whilst Sebastien and Thierry may justly claim they were hindered by the road running order, everybody else running behind Ott can look to him for some lessons.
Thierry Neuville – Second
Thierry Neuville would have received all sorts of praise if it wasn’t for the astonishing performance from Tanak. Second on the road hadn’t hampered him too badly compared to Ogier, and he managed to finish Friday in one piece and in third. From there he was able to pull away from those behind him through Saturday as well as overtake Meeke in second place.
Second place was in the bag by Saturday evening with only teammate Sordo in sight. This didn’t seem to calm Thierry though and he set two fastest times on Sunday’s three stages. Five points on the Power Stage – the legendary El Condor rounded off a decent performance. But Neuville’s Rally Argentina would be utterly upstaged by the man that beat him – Ott Tanak.
Dani Sordo – Third
Sordo made great pace through Friday, his pace line marred by two runs of the same stage, SS2 and SS6 Las Bajadas. But it’s the comparison to Ott Tanak that makes it look poor. Compared to every other driver through this stage his times aren’t so bad. He ended Friday in fourth, less than a second behind Thierry. Was this an orchestrated move by Hyundai to give Thierry favourable road conditions for the weekend? It is unlikely, and Thierry’s pace through the rest of the weekend suggest he would have taken Dani anyhow. Fortunately for Dani, Kris Meeke’s troubles elevated him to the podium. A stage win on the monstrous 40km long SS15 Cuchilla Nevada was impressive but unnecessary. Sunday was a cruise to the finish.
The Missed Podiums
Rally Argentina would be yet another rally for Kris Meeke to play ‘What If’. He had to change a wheel after suffering a puncture on the second run of Cuchilla Nevada. He lost Kris 5 positions and the last step of the podium.
Andreas had a decent showing on Friday morning and was leading the rally up until the Fernet Branca super special stage. Being overtaken by Ott Tanak in the form he was in is acceptable. Suffering a puncture on the next stage and losing 6 more positions is just bad luck. Mikkelsen’s confidence was knocked and he wouldn’t put in any great pace until Sunday, when it was largely too late.
Sebastien Ogier‘s position on the road on Friday defined his rally again, though he did manage to set the pace on Stage 2 when just about everybody else was suffering. Four points on the Power Stage were once again the consolation prize.
To be fair to Elfyn Evans his pace was consistent, but poor. Also to be fair he was quite vocal through the weekend about his performance being substandard. But this is the World Rally Championship, the elite level of the sport and turning up to let the rally happen around you is not good enough. Perhaps Elfyn was thinking too much about Rally Argentina 2017, when he lost the win on the final stage by a whisper. That sort of pace did not show up in 2018.
Craig Breen was in the thick of the podium chasers by Friday evening but Saturday was not kind. A roll on SS11 later forced Craig to retire. It’s possible Craig could have finished in 4th if he had carried on an erratic showing off pace but a podium is doubtful.
Esapekka Lappi was not enjoying Rally Argentina at all and it would get worse on SS11. Co-driver Janne Ferme called a wrong pacenote and the Toyota left the road. Fortunately they could continue the rally. A puncture on SS16 and a stall on the Power Stage summed up his event.
Jari-Matti Latvala had a disastrous rally. Suspension damage on SS3 ended it for him and he did not restart under Rally 2. If his Stage 2 time is anything to go by alone, he may have otherwise had a fruitful weekend.
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I will be following this review up in preparation for the 2019 season with reviews of all rallies in 2018. You can subscribe below or follow me on Twitter for notifications of new posts @PushingPace. If you enjoy the wider rally discussion I’m @WRCStan. Please let me know any comments, opinions or mistakes too.
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