Las Bajadas – Villa del Dique 1, 16.65km
Technically difficult stage carried over from last year. After a fast opening and three big jumps, the road becomes more twisty and narrow, demanding maximum concentration. It speeds up again towards the end. The surface is rough and drivers face three water splashes in the final kilometre.
The Briton stopped the clocks 1.0sec faster than Yaris team-mate Ott Tänak though the treacherously slippery stage from Las Bajadas to Villa del Dique, but the Estonian preserved his overnight advantage by seven-tenths of a second.
Heavy rain over the last few days has transformed the soft and sandy roads and drivers fought against standing water and mud – conditions that were not present when they practised the test on Tuesday.
“I wasn’t the driver there, I was a passenger sometimes!” said a wide-eyed Meeke at the finish. “Some parts were OK but it was full mud in others and that was tricky.”
Andreas Mikkelsen finished the test 1.0sec adrift of Tänak to hold third. The Norwegian breathed a big sigh of relief as he steered his Hyundai i20 into the finish.
“It was very tricky at the end. There was a lot of negative camber and if you are too fast into a corner then then you just lose the grip and slide into something,” he said.
Team-mate Dani Sordo was fourth fastest, the Spaniard admitting he took no risks in the inconsistent grip. He headed Finnish duo Esapekka Lappi and Jari-Matti Latvala, the latter competing in his 200th world rally.
Early starters Thierry Neuville and Sébastien Ogier found conditions no easier. Championship leader Neuville was ninth in his i20, 13.0sec adrift of Meeke and one place behind Ogier.
The following Amboy – Yacanto stage has been cancelled due to the weather. Organisers said bad conditions on the liaison sections before and after the test meant the required safety and medical vehicles could not be deployed.