Part 2: Tales from another ARC – rallying in Argentina
- 8th September 2010, 1:35pm
In part 2 of this three part feature, Nathan Davis gives us a run down on Round 9 of the Argentinean Rally Championship - the Rally of San Luis.
The city of San Luis is located in the province of the same name, right in the heart of Argentina and is about an 800km drive from the capital, Buenos Aires.
So on a bright and sunny Friday morning my girlfriend, Fernanda, and I packed our things into a rented Ford Ka and left the crazy hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires behind. We had a long drive through the pampas to San Luis, to see first hand how the Argentines go rallying. Whilst attending any rally is always good for me, I was particularly excited about this one, as I had the opportunity to see the new Maxi Rally VW Gol run in the flesh.
As stated in my last article, this car has been built by Barattero Motorsports Group to the new “Maxi Rally” rules that have been introduced in Argentina. This has been in a bid to enable locally made cars that would normally not be competitive, or even eligible to compete, the chance to race against the establishment of Group N Mitsubishis and Subarus.
The rally started in the city of San Luis with an explosion of fire works on Friday night, followed by the 37 cars entered running in reverse order around a tarmac Super Special stage. A large crowd turned up to see the action, all keen to see their favourite drivers put on a show before hitting the dirt on Saturday.
Early Saturday morning we attended the morning service first up and this was a spectacular treat in itself. The central service park was located in the pit area of a local race track, “Potrero de los Funes”, which is in a word, incredible. It is a public road when not in use and the 6.27km lap is set in a high valley encircling a lake. It’s full of fast flowing bends, hairpins, chicanes, ups, downs and everything else that a good track should have.
Whilst this may be sacrilege, I would go as far as saying that it puts Bathurst to shame! It is going to host the final round of the FIA GT International Championship this year and would be well worth the trip.
After giving the little Ford Ka a treat by lapping the circuit, we headed off to see the rally cars in action. The first loop of stages was high up in the surrounding desert mountains and enabled spectators to find great vantage points, where you could see the cars running for miles. After watching some of the cars take off at a stage start, a local policeman told us about a much better spot on the nearby Stage 6. We followed his advice and climbed up onto a ridge overlooking a water splash, and patiently waited for the cars to arrive while admiring the giant Condors circling above.
Gabriel Pozzo was first on the scene in his Subaru, followed by Federico Villagra in a Mitsubishi. Unfortunately Claudio Menzi and his VW Gol never appeared, a broken tie rod putting an end to his day on Stage 4 after setting several top three times earlier in the day. We returned to the service park a little disappointed to not have seen the VW from our great viewing point, but were assured by Team Barattero that the car would be out again the following morning.
Indeed it was. Menzi set two top three stage times on the first few stages, showing the car was right back on the pace and doing it with style. He eventually finished third for the day, 17.8 seconds off the lead and right in the thick of battling with the Group N cars.
The rally concluded just after lunch on Sunday with a final Super Special stage taking in part of the race track and pit area near the service park. A combination of tarmac, gravel and concrete gave the drivers plenty of surface changes and made for great viewing.
After championship leaders Gabriel Pozzo and Federico Villagra both suffered problems, young local driver Miguel Baldoni won the rally driving a Mitsubishi Evo X. Despite competing in several PWRC rounds this year, this was his first win in the Argentinean Championship and was to the delight of his local fans. At only 22 he may have a great career ahead of him.
As far as the Maxi Rally VW Gol is concerned, whether it was overtaking us on the highway, revving at the stage start or sliding past us sideways, it was great to watch. It’s naturally aspirated 2.4 litre Honda engine sounded fantastic and it was just more entertaining than the Group N cars.
I am a fan of S2000 and I certainly think that at WRC and IRC levels the costs of running these cars is probably realistic. However at a national level, particularly in countries that are a long way from Europe, like Australia and Argentina, the costs of competing with an S2000 car just doesn’t seem acceptable. But if it’s not that, what else is there? Manufacturers aren’t making many four-wheel drive cars that are suitable for rallying anymore and banning the current crop of four-wheel drives in favour of two-wheel drive only - well I just don’t see that as a viable option.
The thinking in Argentina is “Let’s make any car into a four-wheel drive rally car, using commonly available parts from existing models”, rather than the highly expensive homologated parts found in S2000 cars. The basic specification is to use a commonly available engine, gearbox, differential and brakes and then modify each car to suit the parts. The more I think about it, the more I like it.
It may be more similar to NASCAR than some people would like, BUT, at this level manufacturers aren’t developing cutting edge technologies like they do in the WRC, so I see it as a case of developing the lower levels of the sport in order to keep the upper levels going, because as most of us know, without a bottom you don’t have a top.
I would like to say a big “muchas gracias” to Barattero Motorsport Group for allowing me access to the Maxi Rally VW Gol, both in their workshop and at the rally.
Stay tuned for my next article where I will be interviewing Barattero driver and former Production Car World Rally Champion, Gabriel Pozzo, about his thoughts on the Argentinean Championship and whether he’ll be trading his Subaru in for a Maxi Rally car anytime soon.
For more information on the Argentinean Rally Championship visit: http://www.rallyargentino.org.ar
For more information on Barattero Motorsport Group and its products visit:
And for any Australian pricing and delivery enquiries on Barattero products email:
|Nathan Davis laps up Argentinian rallying.||Gabriel Pozzo makes a splash in Argentina.|
|The VW Gol made an impressive start to its career.||The Rally of San Luis service park was impressive.|
|Federico Villagra on the final Super Special Stage.||A tank full of Fangio fuel anyone?|
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