Citroen’s Kris Meeke secured a breakthrough win on Rally Argentina as the favoured Volkswagen team suffered a rare spate of mechanical failures.
Meeke’s win was the first by British driver since Colin McRae claimed honours on the 2002 Safari Rally. Northern Irishman Meeke dedicated his win to the legendary Scot, who served as Meeke’s mentor early in his career.
Reigning champion Sebastien Ogier started the event as favourite after a run of five consecutive victories stretching back to Spain last year. But the Volkswagen driver’s bid came unstuck almost immediately, as he was forced to retire with engine problems on Friday’s first stage.
Meeke claimed the rally lead with a string of fastest times early on, before easing off to make sure he brought the car home. VW’s Jari-Matti Latvala kept pace on Friday, but diff issues and a spin dropped him out of contention before a fueling problem ended his rally on the penultimate stage.
Andreas Mikkelsen suffered a servo pump failure as well, adding to Volkswagen’s woes. Both he and Ogier were able to restart and set some fastest times but finished outside the points. VW last failed to make the podium on Rally Germany in 2013.
Meeke’s teammate Mads Ostberg was left as the main challenger, but he was unable to make much of an impression. By the end he was 18.1 seconds in arrears, but the result puts him in second place in the championship standings.
Welsh youngster Elfyn Evans took his best WRC result so far, finishing third for M-Sport Ford. He had been delayed by Thierry Neuville’s slow-moving Hyundai on Friday; an appeal to have his time adjusted wasn’t heard, but Evans put on a very mature display to bring his Fiesta home.
Neuville endured a litany of issues before retiring on the Power Stage with suspension damage. That allowed Martin Prokop to finish fourth ahead of Dani Sordo in the second Hyundai.
Khalid Al Qassimi was the last of the leading WRC runners, ahead of WRC2 winner Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari. Local drivers Diego Dominguez, Gustavo Saba and Federico Villagra closed out the top ten.
Not only did Meeke’s win end a 13-year drought for British driver’s, it was the first for Citroen since Rally Germany in 2013; the 1-2 was also the first for Citroen since Finland 2012; and two British drivers last finished on the podium together when Richard Burns and McRae finished 1-2 in New Zealand in 2001.
Despite not finishing, Ogier still leads the championship; Meeke moves up to fifth.
The WRC returns to Europe for the next round in Portugal on 21-24 May. For more information click here
Rally Argentina top 10 finishers after SS12
- Kris Meeke — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/Citroen DS3 WRC — 3:41:44.9
- Mads Ostberg — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/Citroen DS3 WRC — +18.1
- Elfyn Evans — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +3:27.4
- Martin Prokop — Jipocar Czech National Team/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +6:26.1
- Dani Sordo — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — +10:46.7
- Khalid Al-Qassimi — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/Citroen DS3 WRC — +11:19.9
- Abdulazaz Al-Kuwari — Youth & Sports Qatar Rally Team/Ford Fiesta RRC — +16:02.6
- Diego Dominguez — D. Dominguez/Ford Fiesta R5 — +18:48.2
- Gustavo Saba — G. Saba/Skoda Fabia S2000 — +21:20.6
- Federico Villagra — F. Villagra/Ford Fiesta R5 — +25:19.6