Seven-time World Champion Sebastien Loeb has joined the chorus of opposition to Rally Argentina organizers for the decision to include the asphalt section at the end of the El Condor test. Loeb felt the 12-mile stretch of fast asphalt was dangerous on the first run this morning.
"For me, it was dangerous," he said. "We are in top gear with no grip from soft gravel tires. It was very bad, the car was doing what it wanted. It was terrible. I couldn't push in there, just try to stay on the road."
Loeb was at pains to stress that he was not against the principle of mixed-surface events, adding: "We saw when we ran the hard tire on asphalt in Cyprus a few years ago, this can work and it's interesting – but this was not interesting. It was stupid."
The Frenchman's sentiments were echoed by Ford's Mikko Hirvonen.
"It wasn't very nice," said Hirvonen. "There was one section where we had a cut in our notes. This cut had to be taken flat-out. If you didn't take the cut, the corner wasn't flat-out and we didn't have the chance to test this cut on the recce because of the other traffic, it was quite busy – so we just had to take the risk.
"It wasn't so good. I didn't like this section and with so many great stages out here, I don't see why they had to do it."
Hirvonen's teammate Jari-Matti Latvala was comfortably fastest on the stage, and Ford's analysis revealed that the Finn was on the rev-limiter in top gear for the final 3.6 miles.
While Latvala's rivals lambasted the organizers for the decision to include the super-fast downhill section of asphalt at the end of SS4, Latvala blitzed the section to post the fastest time by almost 10 seconds. M-Sport's data from the stage shows Latvala's average speed through the split section was 121.91mph.
Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson said: "I've never seen anything like this, it's absolutely incredible. The top speed of the car is only 125mph or something like that. He must have been on the limiter all the way through that section – I can't wait to see the in-car [video]!"
Latvala admitted he was as surprised as anybody when he saw the time.
"I was pushing hard," he said. "The car felt good, but I didn't expect the gap to be like this. It was quite exciting..."