On the third day of Rally Argentina, the fight for the lead in the WRC 2 category was getting more and more intense. Hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic fans witnessed the fierce battle between ŠKODA Motorsport factory crews Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson (SWE/SWE) and Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (FIN/FIN).
On Saturday, around 150 kilometres of tough special stages on Argentinian gravel roads in the Cordoba area were waiting for the crews. 17 years old Finnish ŠKODA youngster Kalle Rovanperä had a perfect start into the day. Although some fog was hovering over the mountain roads, he won the first two stages of the leg and at that point reduced the gap to teammate and reigning WRC 2 Champion Tidemand to 5.4 seconds. “For sure it wasn’t easy in the fog, but on the other hand not bad. I was careful and it was okay for us,” was Rovanperä’s modest comment. Pontus Tidemand was already looking forward to the next stage: “It’s going to be tough.”
One stage later, the more than 40 kilometres between Cuchilla Nevada and Rio Pintos, Rovanperä powered his ŠKODA FABIA R5 to a dominant fastest time – 15.8 seconds faster than the second ŠKODA youngster, O.C. Veiby, who in Argentina is running outside the WRC 2 classification, being listed in RC 2 class instead. At the midday break in Villa Carlos Paz, Rovanperä was leading the WRC 2 category 23 seconds ahead of Tidemand.
After the midday service break the duel between the two ŠKODA factory crews continued. Rovanperä won another two stages, while Tidemand took some seconds back by scoring the last stage win of the day. At the end of the Saturday leg, Kalle Rovanperä led teammate Pontus Tidemand by 23.2 seconds. “We are going quite well, but we had to really push, because Pontus was doing well. I just played it safe, I didn’t want to get a puncture”, he said. Pontus Tidemand confessed: “We want to get to the finish without problems.”
ŠKODA junior O.C. Veiby had another strong day, although the young Norwegian suffered two punctures his ŠKODA FABIA R5. As a consequence he lost roughly two minutes in total, dropping him back into fourth in RC 2 class. ŠKODA Motorsport boss Michal Hrabánek commented: “What an incredible fight between Kalle and Pontus! Hats off to them, that they drove at that speed without doing any mistakes. I’m especially proud, that our ŠKODA FABIA R5 mastered the very rough and rocky Argentinian stages without any problems.”
Rally Argentina concludes on Sunday with another three stages, including two runs over the iconic “El Condor”.
Standings Rally Argentina after Day 3 (WRC 2)
1. Rovanperä/Halttunen (FIN/FIN), ŠKODA FABIA R5, 3:09:24.1 h
2. Tidemand/Andersson (SWE/SWE), ŠKODA FABIA R5, +23.2 sec.
3. Greensmith/Parry (GBR/GBR), Ford Fiesta R5, +2:27.7 min.
4. Heller/Olmos (CHL/ARG), Ford Fiesta R5, +7:36.2 min.
5. Dominguez/Galindo (MEX/MEX), Hyundai i20 R5, + 12:57.8 min.
Number of the day: 17
ŠKODA junior Kalle Rovanperä is only 17 years old – the youngest driver not only in WRC 2 category but in Rally Argentina as well.
The calendar of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2)
Great Britain; 04/10/–07/10/2018