SS4: Santa Rosa – San Agustin 1, 23.44km
It seems the whole of Argentina packs onto the high banking alongside the iconic watersplash 650 metres after the start, where Petter Solberg almost rolled in 1999. It’s a fast, open stage on smooth sandy roads, although it becomes bumpier towards the finish. A popular test with fans.
SS5: Super Especial Fernet Branca 1, 6.04km
The gravel super special stage at the theme park on the edge of Villa Carlos Paz is popular with drivers. Two cars at a time drive the twisty circuit which mixes fast corners with slower bends, and also has a jump and a crossover bridge. It’s always a big hit with the fans too.
He headed championship leader Thierry Neuville by 5.4sec after the opening loop of country road speed tests in the Calamuchita Valley, which were covered by mud and standing water following 48 hours of rain.
After winning the opening test to reduce the deficit to overnight leader and team-mate Ott Tänak, Meeke slid his Toyota Yaris to second fastest through the Santa Rosa – San Agustin stage, before safely negotiating more rain in Carlos Paz’s theme park super special.
“This morning was a big challenge, and not so much about ultimate pace. It was more about reading the road. The stages here are quite sandy and 70 per cent was what you would expect. But there are places where it was thick mud for 200 metres and I had to drop a couple of gears,” he explained.
Neuville won the Santa Rosa test to climb from ninth, the road-opening Belgian happier in slightly drier conditions than the opening stage.
“We struggled in the first stage because there was so much water on the road. We had to make a line for those behind and the road became progressively quicker. In the next one we improved the settings, took a few risks and we’re back in the fight for the lead,” he said.
Tänak and Sébastien Ogier were tied in third, 1.2sec behind their title rival. Tänak struggled with the inconsistent grip in his Toyota Yaris and the Estonian admitted he had ‘work to do’ in service before the afternoon loop.
Ogier flirted with a Santa Rosa bank but escaped damage to his Citroën C3, the tying duo 2.2sec clear of the third Yaris of Jari-Matti Latvala. The Finn, starting his 200th world rally, was as high as third but yielded a couple of places with set-up issues.
Andreas Mikkelsen drove most of Santa Rosa with a front left puncture, but bounced back to win the park test. The Norwegian was 2.9sec behind Latvala and 2.1sec clear of team-mate Dani Sordo.
Elfyn Evans was eighth, but less than 15sec off the lead, in his Ford Fiesta. Esapekka Lappi held ninth after a scary moment at the same place as team-mate Ogier. He swiped a bank, almost rolled and struggled to the finish with a right rear puncture.
Teemu Suninen completed the leaderboard, the Finn losing time after his Fiesta ingested water at a Santa Rosa river crossing.