SS11: Cuchilla Nevada – Characato 1, 33.65km
Despite being shortened by almost 7km at the finish, this remains the longest stage of the rally. It is also one of the toughest, as drivers encounter concrete gutters across the road, river crossings and dried water splashes. It is blisteringly fast across flat and open pampas before descending to the finish after a jump in front of the Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Characato chapel. The surface constantly varies and there is no time to relax in here.
SS12: Super Especial Fernet Branca 2, 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.
The FIA World Rally Championship leader returned to service in Villa Carlos Paz with his overnight advantage cut to 6.4sec by Tänak, who capitalised on his Toyota Yaris’ speed advantage over fast pampas roads in the Punilla Valley.
Tänak claimed a second straight fastest time with victory in the long Cuchilla Nevada – Characato special stage. He slashed 6.1sec off Neuville’s lead, before the Belgian regained 1.2sec in the theme park test in Carlos Paz at the wheel of his Hyundai i20.
“I was flat out, I gave it everything. There is no chance to fight with him when he starts pushing. He goes away and the stages are made for that car,” admitted Neuville, envious of the Toyota’s aero capabilities.
Third-placed Ogier’s hopes of staying in contact with the leading two ended in Cuchilla Nevada with a power steering problem in his Citroën C3.
“There was a junction that was not like the recce. I got confused, made a stupid mistake and hit a gate,” explained the Frenchman, who lost 30sec. Another 25sec disappeared in the park test and a disappointed Ogier entered service down in sixth.
Problems too for Kris Meeke. The Briton lost his brakes in Cuchilla Nevada, struggled to slow the Yaris entering a watersplash and swiped a bank on the outside.
The impact broke the rear right wheel, which he switched to the left for the park test, as the spare was also broken. The tyre deflated in the stage and the 20sec conceded meant Meeke stayed fourth, despite Ogier’s issues.
The beneficiary of their troubles was Andreas Mikkelsen. The Norwegian hit the same bank as Meeke but escaped unscathed and then won the park test to climb to third in his i20. He was 42.3sec adrift of Tänak and 11.6sec clear of Meeke.
Dani Sordo was fifth, the i20 pilot only nine-tenths behind Meeke and 9.3sec clear of Ogier. Jari-Matti Latvala was seventh in his Yaris, despite a slow puncture in Cuchilla Nevada, ahead of Teemu Suninen, who survived a big moment in the same test.
WRC 2 Pro leader Mads Østberg and WRC 2 leader Pedro Heller completed the leaderboard.