Sébastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen set the best two times in today’s qualifying stage, which was held in the rain. The Citroën Total WRT drivers opted to go first on day one of Rally Argentina.
Just as during reconnaissance, competitors were greeted by cold, rainy and muddy conditions for the qualifying stage. This first slice of action at the 2012 Rally Argentina came before the drivers then chose their starting positions for the first leg, which features over 200km of timed stages.
After pushing really hard, Sébastien Loeb set the best time and decided to take first position on the road: “I felt I had been a bit ‘sluggish’ in qualifying since the start of the season and I wasn’t always able to make the best choice. I achieved my goal here, though, and I hope we’ve made the right decision! More rain is expected tomorrow, so that will make the stages muddy and ‘greasy’. In conditions like these, it’ll be better to go first to get the maximum grip. The first stage tomorrow morning could be pretty tricky because it won’t be completely light. And if there’s fog, it will be particularly difficult.”
After setting the qualifying stage’s second fastest time, Mikko Hirvonen will head off two minutes after his team-mate: “I tried to push very hard to set the best possible time, but Séb was incredibly fast this morning. It’s good that Citroën has the top two places. Although the rally has over 500km of stages, I think we are going to have to go flat out from start to finish. We can’t afford to lose any time at all, even a second! I like the new sections a lot, especially first few kilometres of SS9 which are extremely quick. I really can’t wait to get this rally underway!”
Fifth in the qualifying stage, Thierry Neuville will start from the same position on day one of the rally: “I am pleased to be the first driver after the four works drivers; everything went very well this morning. It wasn’t easy to take the pace notes during reconnaissance, because there was a lot of fog. My goal is to make it to the end of the rally without having to use the Rally2 rules. It will be a tough ask on such a long and difficult rally but I think this is a good opportunity to add to my experience.”
Having set fast times on the two runs in free practice, Nasser Al-Attiyah had to settle for the 9th fastest time after making a minor mistake on the timed run: “It’s not a big problem on such a long rally. I think I’ll need to drive intelligently on this rally. I am not particularly worried about the 66km stage that starts day three. On this type of run, you have to drive calmly, sticking to the pace you set yourself. It is also important to remember to look after the engine and gearbox on this sort of test…”