RALLY ARGENTINA - POSITIVE UPGRADES TO THE C3 WRC
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT saw the chance of a podium slip away after a harsh puncture, as its efforts over the weekend went largely unrewarded. The team can nonetheless take satisfaction from having once again challenged right at the front in the C3 WRC and from having shown that the recently-approved upgrades to the rear axle of its car have had the desired effect.
THE STORY OF THE RACE
A podium (3rd) on his first WRC appearance in 2014 followed by his first world championship win a year later: there can be no doubt that Kris Meeke enjoys competing at Rally Argentina. Full of confidence in the C3 WRC, on which a new rear axle was introduced for this round, the Northern Irishman wasted no time in demonstrating his love of this event when he made it to midday service on the opening day in third place, particularly thanks to two consecutive second fastest times. He upped his level again in the afternoon, moving into second position, 22.7s behind the leader at the end of day one. Meanwhile, Craig Breen ended the day in sixth overall, just 4.8s behind the fifth-placed driver, on his return to the WRC. His strong performances (two second fastest times) were somewhat obscured by a ten-second penalty for arriving late at a time control. Unfortunately, Craig ran into trouble the following day, spelling the end of his rally, whilst his split times showed he was keeping pace with the future rally winner on the first run on Cuchilla Nevada – Rio Pintos, the weekend's longest stage... Up to that point, Craig had produced a strong performance, especially for someone whose only previous appearance here was cut very short in 2017. Aware of how important securing a podium was for the team, Kris Meeke opted against all-out attack to hold off the comeback of Neuville. He had a tight hold on third place, with a 16.2s lead over the fourth-placed driver, when he suffered a puncture on the second pass on the same stage. After losing almost 2m 30s, the C3 WRC adorned with the Union Jack – which had been unerringly consistent and fast up to that point – saw its hopes of what would have been the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT's third podium of the season evaporate. However, the team once again showed its strength of character on Sunday, fully committed to the cause despite the obvious frustration, focusing already on set-up testing for the next event. Meanwhile, Khalid Al Qassimi, fourteenth on his first competitive outing this year in the C3 WRC, following a long period out of action – at least in conventional rallying – made his contribution in the hunt for manufacturers' championship points.