Frenchman Sébastien Ogier will start this weekend’s fourth round of the World Rally Championship in Argentina (23 – 26 April) with the chance to add three new records to his glistening collection. He completed a successful first step when he and Britain’s Kris Meeke were tied at the top of the timesheets following Wednesday evening’s shakedown at Xion Rally Argentina.
Andreas Mikkelsen performs during FIA World Rally Championship 2015 Argentina in Villa Carlos Paz
- Photographer Credit Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool
XION (Argentina) – Having won the last five WRC events, Ogier can equal fellow Frenchman Sébastien Loeb’s 2005 and 2008 records of six consecutive wins. If he succeeds, France would also topple Finland as the nation with the most rally wins and Ogier would complete his WRC trophy collection. Currently Argentina is the only round in the calendar he has yet to win.
Talking after the six-week break since the last round in Mexico, Ogier insisted he would not let the possibilities distract him from his primary goal.
“It’s nice to be in the situation where we’ve won the five last rallies, but I will not start Argentina with the target of this record in mind.” he told wrc.com. “It’s most important for me to think about the championship. The record is like the cherry on the cake. If it happens it will be great and I will like it, but I don’t feel pressure to go after it.”
Ogier has tackled Rally Argentina five times, and has finished second twice, most recently last year, when tyre damage dropped him behind Volkswagen Motorsport team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.
Thierry Neuville performs during FIA World Rally Championship 2015 Argentina in Villa Carlos Paz, Argentina
Photographer Credit Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool
The duo set matching times in Wednesday’s shakedown in their first two passes through the 4.59km stage from Villa Garcia to Cabalango. Ogier went faster on his third and final run in his Volkswagen Polo R, only for Meeke to equal it on his fourth attempt in Citroën’s DS 3.
“I enjoyed the break but six weeks was very long so I’m happy to be back in the Polo,” said Ogier. “We had only one test day on gravel during the six weeks, so it was important to have shakedown to get back in the rhythm again.”
Meeke admitted the six-week break since the previous round in Mexico had helped him.
“The start of the season hasn’t been perfect. The speed has been OK but I haven’t been able to be consistent and made a few mistakes. It was nice to have time to clear the head and come back reset. Like Seb, I’ve had just one day on gravel between the two rallies so shakedown was good to get the feeling back,” he said.
Andreas Mikkelsen was 1.2sec behind in third in his Polo R, just a tenth of a second ahead of Mads Østberg’s DS 3 in fourth. Latvala’s Polo R and Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai i20 completed the top six.
Hayden Paddon went off the road and hit a fence during his third run after a bolt broke in his i20’s front left steering arm. He repaired the car in the stage before returning to the Villa Carlos Paz service park.
Long, punishing stages have been the hallmark of Rally Argentina in recent seasons and although 2015’s route shows changes, surviving the endurance sections unscathed will play as big a role as pure pace in the outcome.