Sebastien Loeb claimed the lead of Rally Argentina by winning stage five, despite leaving service just two stages earlier over half a minute away from first place.
Three spins on Friday morning's two stages had left Loeb down in fourth place, behind Petter Solberg, Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo. One key factor in Loeb's surge was a disaster for Solberg, who broke a steering arm on his Ford near the end of stage four, while holding a 20-second lead.
But Loeb also raised his pace considerably, as setup changes on his Citroen at service allowed him to take two comfortable stage wins. The World Champion moved in front of Sordo's Ford on SS4, then outpaced teammate Hirvonen by 13.4sec on the long Ascochinga-Agua de Oro stage to take the rally lead by 1.1sec. Admitting he lacked the right rhythm in his driving on SS5, Hirvonen found himself pushed back to second after just one stage in the lead. Sordo remains in touch, 13.4sec behind Loeb.
Citroen Junior's Thierry Neuville had been running a strong fourth, only to suffer yet another opening day incident. The Belgian rolled on SS5, with reports from the stage suggesting his car had sustained substantial damage, forcing him to stop and retire.
Neuville's exit moved Mads Ostberg into fourth, despite the Norwegian having some concerns about his Adapta Ford's engine, which he suspected could be rectified with attention to the fuel pump, and intercom worries.
After two loops of long stages, the rally resumes later on Friday evening for a single shorter stage – the 19 kilometers of Cosquin/Villa Allende.