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WRC Argentina – Loeb wins, Loeb leads

   I don’t suppose the result of the Argentine Rally will come as a shock to many. Sebastien Loeb in the Citroen won by over two and a half minutes and leads the championship, having now won three of the first four events.The only real surprise is that for the second rally in a row the runner-up was Subaru’s Chris Atkinson who is finally adding some consistency to his outright natural speed. 

  

 Loeb didn’t have it all his own way how-ever. Mikko Hirvonen produced a spell-binding first leg in the rain and fog to finish the stage an astonishing 48 seconds faster than his ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. Loeb slithered across the finish line in the belief that he was just 10 seconds quicker than the Ford driver until his team confirmed that Hirvonen’s time was 16 minutes 29 seconds not 17 minutes…… “Fuck” was Loeb’s one word response.  

  Hirvonen extended his lead until the lunch break imediatlty after which he shattered his suspension on a sizable rock handing the lead, not to team-mate Latvala, who had rolled on stage two and broken his rear suspension on stage four, but to, yeah you guessed it, Loeb. And from then Sebastien just Loebed it home to yet another victory.

   Atkinson had a mostly fine first day and generally blew his team-mate Petter Solberg to the weeds. At one point he was 41 seconds ahead of the former world champ. Two slow speed spins on the second last stage of day one wiped off 38 seconds of that lead however and so Chris had only a three second lead overnight. Solberg had a better start two day two and when team orders came into effect (oh sorry, they don’t have those any more) Atkinson was in a comfortable third place. He kept up a reasonable pace though and when Solberg’s electrics died on Sunday morning Chris was back in second, a good minute and a half ahead of Loeb’s Citroen team-mate, Dani Sordo who is slowly improving on gravel surfaces.

   The attrition rate being what it was, just two other WRC regulars finished in the points. Mikko Hirvonen came home in fifth place after taking advantage of the super-rally rules as did Gigi Galli who finished seventh. This leaves Loeb in the lead with 30 points from Hirvonen on 25, Atkinson 22 and Latvala 16. Solberg in back in 7th place with just 9 points.

 

 Sam Snape