Craig Breen – Scott Martin and Kris Meeke – Paul Nagle set the second and third fastest times in today’s shakedown in their C3 WRCs, confirming that they were very much on the pace in Argentina. Meanwhile, Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson finished with the thirteenth fastest time, making use of this final practice session to get back into swing of things.
Following few days of storms and persistent fog during recce, the crews lined up this morning for the shakedown, the final opportunity to get their bearings on the roads at this unusual event. At just over four kilometres long and fairly representative of the weekend’s difficulties, especially on the opening leg, the shakedown stage provided the crews with the chance to familiarise themselves with the local roads, reputed for being very sandy in places and on which ruts can form very quickly.
Full of confidence in his C3 WRC, which features a new rear axle for this round, Kris Meeke grabbed the fastest time on each of his first two runs, only missing out on topping the timesheets by just four tenths on his third attempt. Despite being less experienced at this event – his single appearance here having been cut short last year – Craig Breen also proved to be fast from the word go, even setting the second fastest time on his fourth run. Meanwhile, for his first rally of the year, at an event where he finished sixth in 2015, Khalid Al Qassimi adopted a careful approach, gradually building his confidence in the car and reducing the gap to the leading drivers on each of his runs.
Although this evening’s super-special stage held in the streets of Villa Carlos Paz is set to kick start the weekend’s festive atmosphere, the real action gets underway tomorrow. Friday’s leg is the longest of the rally, with more than forty-three percent of the total competitive distance covered and featuring stages expected to be extremely demanding for the cars.
WHAT THEY SAID
“Although you should never draw any hasty conclusions based on the shakedown, it’s always positive to start the racing weekend like this. I was comfortable in my C3 WRC today and the times reflected that. I just hope that it’ll be the same thing when we start racing, but the opening leg is going to be a huge challenge on extremely fast and bumpy roads that are very demanding.”
“It’s great to be back in my C3 WRC, especially as the feeling was good right from the word go this morning! I feel that we have a good package to challenge at the front this weekend and although I may lack experience on this unusual surface, I’m going to give it everything and especially make the most of my good road position tomorrow.”
Khalid Al Qassimi
“It’s not easy for me to come back to the WRC after competing in several cross-country rallying races in a row. I need some time to adapt, especially as the car has made quite a bit of progress since I last drove it. So I tried to take it in stages this morning and that’s how I intend to approach the race this weekend, gradually building confidence and trying to make it the end of this great challenge!”
- Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:31.5
- Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) ) 2:31.8
- Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:31.9
- Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:32.2
- Tänak / Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:32.6
- Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:32.7
- Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:33.0
- Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:33.2
- Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:33.3
- Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:33.7
- Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:42.1