PHOTO: Sebastien Ogier streaks to an early leader in Xion Rally Argentina (Volkswagen pic)
SÉBASTIEN Ogier was the early leader of Xion Rally Argentina after winning Thursday night’s curtain-raising Super Special Stage in the town of Merlo.
Merlo town centre is packed with fans for the opening action of the 2015 rally. Two cars at a time, starting 15sec apart, drive two laps of a 1.34km loop containing a jump, tight hairpins and fast straights. The stage is 75 per cent asphalt and 25 per gravel.
Huge crowds packed the town centre, 233 km from the rally base at Villa Carlos Paz, as the rally visited for the first time. They watched Ogier’s Volkswagen Polo R outpace teammate Andreas Mikkelsen and Citroen’s Kris Meeke by two-tenths of a second.
Drivers had a marathon liaison section back to lakeside Villa Carlos Paz in western Argentina for the overnight halt. They restart at 6.30am local time on Friday for two identical loops of two stages before another Super Special near the town, a total of 149.44km of competition.
“It’s going to be a long weekend with some very tough stages, but that’s the same for everyone,” said Ogier, who made the perfect start to the only round on the current WRC calendar he’s yet to win.
Last year’s Argentina winner, Volkswagen number two Jari-Matti Latvala, was just a tenth further back in fourth with Hyundai teammates Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville completing the top six in their i20 World Rally Cars.
Just 1.1sec split the first six.
Conditions were slippery in the mixed surface test with hanging dust adding an extra challenge for drivers.