Thierry Neuville scored his second successive WRC victory by winning the Rally Argentina, extending his championship advantage and leading a Hyundai 1-2 ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen.
Neuville moved into a lead he would never relinquish on SS8, taking advantage of heavy rainfall that had a significant effect on Friday’s competitive order.
Due to the rain compacting the Argentine gravel Neuville was at an advantage opening the road and led second place-on-the-road Sebastian Ogier despite a slow start that saw the Belgian second-slowest of the WRC runners overall.
Neuville’s job was made easier when Ogier suffered a power steering failure following a collision with a bridge in the 33km Characato test, losing just over a minute by the time he reached service, and when a charging Ott Tanak suffered an alternator failure, resulting in retirement.
This was all great news for Hyundai, as Andreas Mikkelsen moved into the runner-up position behind his team-mate. Mikkelsen displayed strong pace throughout the final day to edge away from his chasing competitors behind to score his first rostrum finish of 2019.
Ogier meanwhile looked to try and wrestle third place from Kris Meeke, ultimately moving ahead on Sunday morning thanks to a 10-second penalty given to the Irishman, as well as Toyota team-mate Tanak, for deviating from the road book during the Characato stage.
The Frenchman also secured the Power Stage win, limiting his point’s loss to Neuville ever so slightly as the Hyundai driver could only manage third fastest.
Meeke fought back however in the first running of El Condor and Mina Clavero, turning a 7.2-second deficit to a 5.2-second lead heading into the rally ending power stage. Luck continued to elude the 2014 Rally Argentina winner, however, as a puncture cruelly dropped him to fourth behind Ogier at the finish.
Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile scored his best result of what has been a tricky season for the Finn so far, managing to overturn Hyundai’s Dani Sordo on the final day.
Teemu Sunninen struggled in what is only his second visit to Argentina to a seventh-place finish, just ahead of the recovering Tanak who pipped Mads Ostberg to eighth in the final stage of the event.
Ostberg however secured the WRC2 Pro win in his Citroen C3 R5 in what was a solid event for the Norweigan, as early event challenger Gus Greensmith hit trouble and dropped down the leader board.
Pedro Heller secured the final point in 10th as well as the regular WRC2 victory, despite a final-stage hiccup that saw the Fiesta R5 crawl to a halt, forcing Heller to cruise to the finish in road mode.
Both Elfyn Evans and Esapekka Lappi suffered high-speed crashes that saw them both exit the event in dramatic fashion, with both likely needing replacement machines for the next rally in Chile in a fortnight’s time.
Neuville heads to the inaugural Rally Chile event with an extended ten-point championship advantage over Ogier, while Tanak remains third but now 28 points behind the Belgian.