Saturday, June 11, 2011

WRC Argentina 2011

Rally Argentina was a story of changing fortunes, which were occasionally self inflicted.

Loeb was first on the road, which was bad enough, but he accidentally arrived at the afternoon check-in too early and was given a one minute time penalty. At the end of day one, Loeb had dropped to fifth place, which was not too bad in itself, except he was now 1m30s behind the leader. A win was long shot. Or was it?

This year the rally was a mixed surface event with about 5% of the distance run on paved roads using the gravel tires and set up. Even Loeb, who is a sealed surface master, complained that the paved sections were too fast for the setup. But Hirvonen, who never does well on seal surfaces, was unable to cope and ended day one in fourth, 43s off the leader. The mixed surfaces really hurt Hirvonen's chance for a win.

Latvala started day one in fourth but finished in the lead, taking full advantage of his road position, as driver's ahead of him cleaned the road. Petter Solberg, who started fifth, also made hay and ended day one in second place, with a win being a strong possibility.

Both Latvala and Solberg would have reversal of fortune on day two. Latvala managed to maintain his lead despite being first on the road but a suspension failure forced him to retire. Ogier passed Solberg to take second place early on day two, but Solberg was always within striking distance. After Latvala retired, Solberg was back in second and a win again became a possibility. Then, on the last stage of day two, Solberg's power steering broke. Petter never hides his emotions but it's rare to see him that angry. The guy has attrocious luck.

Day three started with Ogier leading Hirvonen and Loeb. But with Hirvonen 43s behind, Ogier was almost assured of the win. Almost. On the first stage of day three, an error in Ogier's pace notes caused him to cut a corner that he should not have. He clipped something which flipped the car into a roll. Although the car was badly damaged, he continued the rally. He even maintained his lead although it was greatly reduced, and victory was no longer assured.

And the benefactor of Ogier's misfortune was... Loeb! He had passed Hirvonen on the first stage of day three and had now been handed a chance for a win. Despite Ogier's reduced pace, the following stages were very short and Loeb would not gain the lead, and the win, until final stage. Talk about a reversal of fortune.

What a dramatic rally that was. Each day had a surprising turn of events and the winner was only decided in the last stage. It doesn't get any better that.

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