Kris Meeke Wins Rally Argentina 2015
Rally Argentina is always among the toughest challenges in WRC, and 2015 was no exception. Heavy rains left some of the stages in deep mud, so changes have been made by the organizers, but drivers were still beset with great challenges. Surprisingly, the best of them was Kris Meeke, who won his first WRC rally, breaking Sébastien Ogier’s winning streak of five in the process.
The rally started with Meeke taking the early lead in his Citroën DS3 WRC by 31.9sec from Dani Sordo’s Hyundai i20. Jari-Matti Latvala was a further 1.9sec behind in a Volkswagen Polo R. Mads Østberg was fourth, 43.0sec off the lead. Thierry Neuville punctured the left rear tyre on his i20 and Andreas Mikkelsen dropped two minutes after spinning his Polo R in a fast right corner and puncturing the front right wheel. Also, on SS2, Ogier had to retire after a fuel supply problem which left him driving on three cylinders. However, neither Meeke nor Sordo escaped unscathed. Meeke drove the entire stage with a broken handbrake and Sordo lost time towards the finish when his power steering broke.
On SS3, Meeke’s 31.9sec advantage was cut to 15.3sec by Latvala after the Northern Irishman drove most of the stage from Villa Bustos to Tanti with a rear right puncture on Citroën’s DS 3. Dani Sordo drove the entire test with no power steering on his Hyundai i20 after his opening stage issues. That caused him to drop from second to sixth. On the other hand, Latvala drove great and was fastest by 10.2sec from a happier Mads Østberg, who was in third and 20.9sec behind the Finn. On SS4, Ott Tänak had to retire from the rally when he ripped a wheel from his Ford Fiesta RS. He was on fourth when the accident occurred. Kris Meeke was fastest by 13.4sec from Jari-Matti Latvala to extend his lead to 28.7sec. The gap was widened when Latvala encountered transmission problems on SS5. Meeke was quickest in his DS 3 by 8.4sec from Mads Østberg, who has by that point closed the gap on Latvala in the overall standings to 18.6sec. Third fastest for Elfyn Evans in a Ford Fiesta RS narrowed the margin to fourth-placed Dani Sordo to just 1.4sec and Martin Prokop drove the stage with a broken anti-roll bar in his Fiesta RS.
Poor visibility almost cost Meeke his win when he spun out on SS7, which dropped almost 15sec from the gap between himself and Mads Østberg. Latvala was third fastest in his Volkswagen Polo R and admitted poor visibility prompted him to drive cautiously. Due to the dust, organizers have increased the gap between competitors from two to three minutes for SS8. On SS8, Latvala hit a bank.“I hit a bank and went off onto the grass,” he admitted “I was very lucky not to hit a rock and after that I lost my rhythm.” Stage 9 was cancelled following an accident involving several spectators and Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon. Luckily, no one was seriously hurt and spectators were immediately assisted by emergency services from the rally.
On Sunday, Jari-Matti Latvala retired after his VW Polo R WRC suffered engine problems. That way, Meeke was one step closer to his first victory, which he claimed at the end of the day, after four long and rough days. Mads Østberg was second, 18.1sec behind Meeke and Elfyn Evans scored his first podium after finishing third. Czech driver Martin Prokop matched a career-best fourth in another Fiesta RS while Dani Sordo recovered from the electrical problem which stopped him last night to overhaul Khalid Al Qassimi for sixth in the final stage. Sébastien Ogier, who finished down the order after fuel supply problems, won the final live TV Power Stage to claim three bonus points in a Volkswagen Polo R. Dani Sordo took two in a Hyundai i20, with Østberg claiming the final point.
Meeke was very emotional about his maiden victory, and he commented: “The one guy who did most for me isn’t here to see this. This is for Colin. He helped my career out at the very beginning. He supported me financially through to the world championship. Without his support I wouldn’t be here!” It’s sure been an emotional win for Meeke and Citroën, and we hope that we’ll witness even more competition in Portugal!