Gustavo Saba and Fernando Mussano lead the way in the fifth edition of Rally de la República after a sunny but chilly day. It was, again, a tough fight for the lad among the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 driver and Diego Domínguez (co-driven by Edgardo Galindo) at the Wheel of a Hyundai i20, second 9.52s behind the current champion.
Out of the four stages held today, they won twice each while virtually all competitors agreed that the roads were in fine condition, but their strategy required some basic cautions as the event heads two more difficult days since tomorrow.
It was not easy for Saba or Domínguez to get into attack mode in the RC2 Pro class. The first of them had a scary moment when going off the road in fifth speed, while the series leader had to put extra effort than usual to finish near the Volkswagen after losing time due to a puncture in SS3.
Luis Maldonado Jr. and Jorge González took their Škoda Fabia to a remarkable third position (and first in RC2), 29.78s off the pace. Little by little, his times got closer to the front-runners’.
Alejandro Galanti (Toyota Etios R5) was anything but pleased with how things turned out for him. He seemed to finish fifth shortly before parc fermé in Carapeguá when he was promoted to fourth after brake problems got worse in Miguel Zaldívar’s Polo.
After Zaldívar, Agustín Alonso appeared sixth in another Škoda, admitting a couple of mistakes that led him to lose time. In identical cars, Pedro Fadul was seventh and national returnee José Luis Jacquet eighth.
César Martínez Jr. and Marco Méndez were the crew to beat in RC2N Pro one more time, placing their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X ninth overall. They were 1m00.83 faster than Andrea Lafarja (co-driven by Germán Maune). The rally lady was more than happy to see herself in second place, runner-up of the guy who has been dominated the scene for a while now and among the Top 10 as she gets to grips with the turbocharged, four-wheel drive Team La Renga car. In more EvoX samples, César Martínez Sr. And Fernando Servín followed them. Blas Zapag fell from third to sixth in SS4 by rolling the fluo orange Mitsubishi, which showed up later with a shattered windscreen and dents in its roof, bonnet and front area.
In 13th overall, Diego Elizeche and Pedro Sosa took their Honda Civic Si to the top of the front-wheel drive lot and also in the RC3 class, where they were 50.19s quicker than Jorge Ocampos and 1m01.57s than Ricardo Fretes.
Álvaro Yaluk led in RC3 Pro after missing Rally del Guairá. His Citroën DS3 R3 felt more stable in the rear end after a complicated Shakedown yesterday. Joined by Bolivean Fabrizio Roca, Yaluk was second among 2WD entrants and 30.82s faster in his división than Sebastián Lafarja, his Civic Type R brielfy delayed by an electrical failure soon after the start. Riyosuke Shima (Toyota Corolla) was third, 1m54.52s slower.
César Pedotti and Marcelo Mendoza (Lancer Evolution VIII) are the ony participants in RC2N.
There were two Honda Civic Type R in the RC4 category, where Carlos Espinoza and Guillermo Romero finished 3m53.58s ahead of Rodrigo Ocampos. Driving a Toyota Vitz that comes from Coronel Oviedo, Arnaldo Duarte and Richard Arévalos led the Toyota Etios of Federico Ramírez by 7.32s and the Volkswagen Gol de Félix Bareiro by 26.52.
In RC5, youngster Rafael Saurini and Joel Gómez got a 40.40s advantage in front of Giulio Massagrande with Nicolás Baeza (Volkswagen Gol) 10m13.08s behind. Both Toyota drivers are on top the new Etios Cup making its debut this weekend.
The most important retirements were those of Facundo Zaldívar (Ford Fiesta 1.0 RC4 Pro, driveshaft, SS2), Juan Martín Masi (Ford Fiesta RC2, broken front suspensión when hitting a rock), César Cruz (Citroën DS3 R3 Max RC3 Pro, gearbox stuck in third, road section after SS2) and Diego Domínguez Jr. (Peugeot 208 R2 RC4 Pro, off the road).
There will be six more special stages tomorrow for a leg distance of about 250 kilometers starting at 8:30. First car into parc fermé should make it at 15:07.
-Photo: Gustavo Saba/Fernando Mussano (Volkswagen Polo GTI RC2 Pro, first overall). Credit: JES.