Monday 1 May 2017

Rally - Evans pipped in Argentina

Thierry Neuville edged out longtime rally leader Evans by just 0.7sec on the final stage of YPF Rally Argentina when the Welshman clipped a bridge, ending his dreams of a maiden victory. Only two rounds have been decided by a smaller margin in the WRC’s 45-year history.

The Hyundai i20 Coupe driver trailed Evans by 11.5sec heading into the last leg where brake problems for Evans and a fierce Neuville attack sent the pair into the final El Condor 16.32km test separated by just 0.6sec.

Early split times showed Evans more than three seconds ahead. But as his grip lessened near the finish, the Welshman's Ford Fiesta swiped a bridge, handing Neuville a second consecutive win.

“Watching that was the worst time in my life,” said Neuville, after viewing Evans’ run from the finish. "I gave it everything I had, but I didn’t have the best tyres because I had been pushing hard for two stages already.

An emotional Evans, who led by more than a minute on Saturday, said: “I’m gutted to lose by such a fine margin after so many issues. I hit a bridge and that was probably the difference. It’s difficult to take now after holding such a big lead, but part of it is my own doing and I need to come back stronger to win in the future.”

Rock-strewn roads took a heavy toll and merely surviving Friday’s opening leg became the aim of many.

Ott Tänak’s patient strategy paid off as he steered clear of trouble and thrived on the smoother weekend roads to finish third in another Fiesta, a further 29.2sec back. Reigning champion Sébastien Ogier made it three M-Sport World Rally Team cars in the top four almost a minute adrift of Tänak.

Jari-Matti Latvala was Evans’ closest challenger early on, but the Finn slipped back to finish fifth in his Toyota Yaris. Broken power steering completed a torrid weekend for Hayden Paddon, who claimed his maiden win in Argentina 12 months ago. He was sixth.

As for the Citroen team, there was nothing but disappointment. Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle were lying 2nd after SS3, but on SS4 they were caught out by a compression. The car was launched into the air, landing on a bank and rolling off the road. Meeke managed to finish the stage but lost several minutes.

Craig Breen also finished this stage at a crawl. On the same compression as his team-mate, the Irishman landed heavily with the underbody hitting exposed bedrock. The gearbox was damaged by the impact and became stuck in fifth gear.

Under Rally2 rules, and after a serious overnighter by the team mechanics, both C3 WRCs drove out of parc ferme, but the mechanics spotted an oil leak on Craig Breen's car in service. In order to avoid damaging the engine, the Irishman did not take part in the second leg.

Meeke was quickly back on the pace grabbing two stage wins (SS11 and SS12) before the mid-leg service. Unfortunately, the second pass on the stages ended when the car hit a bank at high speed on SS14, the Citroën rolled an incredible eight times! This time, Kris' rally was well and truly over.

1. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) 3:38:10.6
2. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +0.7
3. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +29.9
4. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:24.7
5. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:48.1
6. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +7:42.7
7. Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +11:16.9
8. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +14:44.1
9. Mads Østberg / Ola Fløene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +15:11.3
10. Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +17:32.1

1. Sébastien Ogier - 102
2. Jari-Matti Latvala - 86
3. Thierry Neuville - 84
4. Ott Tänak - 66
5. Dani Sordo - 51
6. Elfyn Evans - 42
7. Craig Breen - 33
8. Hayden Paddon - 33
9. Kris Meeke - 27
10. Juho Hänninen - 15

1. M-Sport WRT - 162 points
2. Hyundai Motorsport - 140 points
3. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT - 102 points
4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT - 73 points

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