Juho Hanninen holds the early advantage for the factory Skoda team after the first loop of full-length stages in the Rally Argentina. The Finn won three of this morning's four stages, but insisted he was driving cautiously and could push harder if required.
"A good morning: no mistakes and I've tried to go quite smoothly without any risk of punctures," Hanninen said. "Still the boys are pushing so it's going to be an interesting afternoon."
Kris Meeke (Peugeot UK) and Guy Wilks (Skoda UK) are Hanninen's closest rivals, running just 0.2sec apart in second and third places. Both were close behind Hanninen initially, but the Finn has now pulled out a 13sec cushion, with Meeke coming under greater pressure from Wilks after the latter won SS4.
Meeke said he was struggling with both a minor car problem and with the road breaking up after the first few cars had passed through each stage.
"We had a problem with the engine, it's like the gear cuts are coming in and the engine is momentarily cutting," he explained. "It probably only cost us 2-3s but it's frustrating. I think Hanninen has an advantage with the conditions. As soon as the first one or two cars are through it turns to porridge. It felt like I had no power – the soft ground's soaking it all up."
Jan Kopecky is running a quiet fourth in the second works Skoda, with Federico Villagra fifth in the M-Sport Ford Fiesta and concerned that the car was down on power.
Nasser Al-Attiyah has been unable to keep pace with the leaders so far as he acclimatizes to the Rene Georges Skoda he will use in this year's Intercontinental Rally Challenge, and currently runs seventh.
After taking second on last night's superspecial, Bruno Magalhaes has dropped back to join the local entrants battling at the foot of the top 10. The Portuguese driver has found it tough to get used to his pace notes in his first attempt at Rally Argentina.