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Sébastien Ogier was fastest out of the blocks on Thursday night’s opening stage of Rally Argentina. The Frenchman beat Mads Østberg by just three seconds in their head-to-head battle around the slippery 6.04 kilometre Super Special Stage on the edge of Villa Carlos Paz. Ogier’s blistering pace can be measured by the fact that the next five cars were covered by 2.4 seconds.

“My drive was OK but the set-up was maybe a bit stiff. I’ve driven this stage better in the past,” said the Volkswagen Polo R pilot.

Østberg, whose time was good enough for second, admitted to a slight mistake on the second lap in his Citroen DS3, but the Norwegian was taken aback by Ogier’s pace.

Andreas Mikkelsen was third in another Polo R, beating Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, whose time placed him sixth. Sandwiched between were Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, Hirvonen coming out on top in an all-Finnish duel by just a tenth of a second.

Dani Sordo and Kris Meeke were seventh and eighth, ahead of WRC 2 leader Jari Ketomaa and Nicolas Fuchs.

Tomorrow’s first full day starts at 7am. Drivers journey north of Villa Carlos Paz to tackle two long stages in the Sierras Chicas and Punilla Valley, which are repeated in the afternoon after service in the town. The 51.88km test from Ascochinga across the mountains to Agua de Oro is one of the longest of the season.


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