It's WRC's second trip to South America, and Argentina welcomed the teams with its best impression of British conditions: Wet and muddy, making the already difficult stages even harder to pass.
Thursday saw action on one short Special Stage, and unsurprisingly Sebastien Ogier was fastest, 3 seconds ahead of promising Mads Östberg (Citroen) who was getting more and more comfortable in the car. Mikkelsen, VW's Youngster with something to prove was another 0.5 seconds slower, just ahead of Mikko Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford).
Today the first longer and decisive stages were tackled, starting with "La Pampa". Again Ogier took victory over 27km of muddy road. Team mates Latvala and Mikkelsen finished behind him, proving just how dominant VW is right now. Best Citroen driver was Kris Meeke in fifth, despite him being unexperienced in Argentina. All of Citroen's hopes lay on his shoulders as Mads Östberg crashed his car after losing control in a compression. An early ending for probably VWs only serious challenger.
The same could be said for Mikko Hirvonen. The Ford lead driver misheard a pace note, took a corner too sharply and hit a wall when his Fiesta bounced back. Both drivers will try to start tomorrow under Rally2 rules. Bad luck also harmed Dani Sordos day. After being fastest in shakedown, a turbo failure forced him to cruise through the stage at a slow speed. Meanwhile team mate Thierry Neuville inherited the position as the premier VW hunter.
And our favourite crash kid? Kubica promised to take it slow, and so he did. He made it through without incidents, but also without spectacular speed.
Stage 3 and 4 didn't see a lot of change throughout the field but only extending gaps. Stage 5 though provided some drama again. Latvala was 18 seconds faster than Ogier and managed to sneak ahead, taking the lead. Third VW driver Mikkelsen was in trouble and had to stop during the stage, just like Sordo and Neuville. This meant that Kris Meeke took third place so far, a great result for the British Citroen driver, although he's already one minute off the lead.
The good thing is that he has got quite a bit of a gap behind him: M-Sport rookie Elfyn Evans kept it all cool and secured P4, over two and a half minutes behind Meeke. And Kubica, another Ford driver, is only 0.2 seconds behind Evans in the fifth spot.
It looks like only breakdowns will change the order of the first 3 drivers, but as the event proved today, it is more than possible that something will happen.
(Opening Photo Credit: Carlos da Silva)