Diego Domínguez and Edgardo Galindo lead the way in the Rally de Alto Paraná after its first six special stages carried on in a chilly and cloudy day. In this fourth round of the Paraguayan season, the Hyundai i20 R5 crew was 19.75s quicker than Gustavo Saba and Fernando Mussano. In a Volkswagen Polo GTI, the current champion holds another German car, driven by Miguel Zaldívar Jr. and Marcelo Der Ohannesian, a championship returnee.
More cautious at the beginning, but determined to push harder during the second loop (he even improved his own time by 20 seconds in just a 15-km test), Domínguez consolidated at the top after Saba was given a 10-second penalty for hitting one of the barrels marking the frequent chicanes prepared to slow down the fast average speeds of the roads around Santa Rita.
That was a common issue, as well as missing braking points. The Polo driver was no exception today and he lost time in his fight for first overall, but he said he is eager to try better luck tomorrow.
Zaldívar Jr. admitted he was surprised by his own times after some months away from the sport. He was consistently in the pace with the RC2 Pro Volkswagen and he said he would truly like to get a podium finish this weekend helped by the good performance of his car and the good work of his co-driver.
Alejandro Galanti lies in fourth (Toyota Etios R5). He even won the opening stage by a 1.37s margin over his predecesor before stalling his engine in a sharp bend. Nevertheless, he is still in the mood to go for something better in Leg 2.
Luis Maldonado Jr. and Jorge González were once again among the front-runners and got a creditable fifth place (first in RC2) in their Škoda Fabia. He had to select reverse caught by a chicane and by a sudden change of grip in the surface. However. Maldonado was able to make a comfortable gap over Augusto Bestard, best Ford user who started the event in a rush after replacing his engine brought from Asunción overnight.
Juan Martín Masi drove another Fiesta to seventh, getting to grips with the surface, sometimes dry, sometimes slippery. Masi left José Luis Jacquet’s Fabia behind him. As he gets more confident with the R5 power, it was Fabrizio Zaldívar who took ninth and was best of the front-wheel drive entrants in the Ford Fiesta R2 (and in the RC4 Pro class) , co-driven by Víctor Aguilera. Zaldívar is in front of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X cars of César Martínez Jr. and Andrea Lafarja. The main battle for RC2N Pro honours is right between them.
Twelfth after dropping several second hitting a barrel and gettins stuck in a ditch, Álvaro Yaluk takes his Citroën DS3 to first in the RC3 Pro division, this time joined by Argentinian co-driver Rubén García. Yaluk is 27s away from Zaldívar, which means that their fight should have been tighter had he not overcome those difficulties.
The rest of the classes are led by César Pedotti (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII (RC2N), Ricardo Fretes (Honda Civic Type R, RC3), Rodrigo Ocampos (Honda Civic Type R, RC4), Arnaldo Duarte (Toyota Vitz, RC4L) and Rafael Saurini (Toyota Etios, RC5 and Etios Cup).
Ricardo Escauriza’s debut in a Ford Fiesta R5 endured just a few meters, just like Brazilian’s André Allegretti event (broken gearbox in his Honda Civic). Miguel Zaldívar and Diego Cagnotti emerged unscathed of a 7-roll accident when they lost control of the Volkswagen Polo GTI after landing a series of jumps in fifth gear. The car was seriously damaged, but the safety cage survived the heavy impact very well. The team does not discount a broken rear suspension part before the crash. Diego Domínguez Jr. was delayed in the final special Stage with a broken driveshaft in his Peugeot 208 R2 (RC4 Pro), in spite of what he made it to parc fermé.
Other six speed tests are on Schedule tomorrow between 8:00 and 14:00, including the Power Stage.
-Photo: Diego Domínguez/Edgardo Galindo (Hyundai i20 R5 RC2 Pro, first overall) Credit: Lucas Ronsoni-Automotor Rally Team.