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PREVIEW: Rally Argentina, WRC round 5

Round five of the World Rally Championship is the traditional Rally Argentine (25-28 April) based at Villa Carlos Paz, which is situated below the Traslasierra hills west of Cordoba.

It’s an event that Toyota’s driver have all won, but only one of the other current WRC drivers have had success at.

The stages are held on very old closed public gravel roads, some of which have been used in motorsport for over 60 years.

The three day event will run in three different areas. The loop of three stages on the opening day is run twice in the Calamuchita Valley to the south, the Saturday loop of three stages will run twice in the Punilla region to the north, and Sunday see the traditional El Condor and Giulio Cesare stages to the west of Villa Carlos Paz. This year both stages are being run uphill.

In addition there is a downtown mixed surfaced stage on Thursday in Villa Carlos Paz, while on Friday and Saturday there are runs at the remarkably scenic Parque Termatico figure-of-eight super special course near Villa Carlos Paz.

The details of the route of the stages this year are much the same as last year. The event is a week later in the year than last year.

Twenty seven cars finally appeared on the entry list for Rally Argentina, the same number as last year. A notable entry is that of 40-year old Paraguayan, Alejandro Galanti, making the WRC debut of a Toyota Etios R5, a car which frequently appears on major rallies in South America.

 

The Etios is the eighth different homologated R5 model to appear on WRC events, though it is entered in the national car category. This is one of only two entries from Paraguay, the other being a Fiesta R2 for Fabrizio Zaldivar.

With two entries from Citroen and M-Sport, there are 10 World Rally Cars, with no private competitors in these cars. There are three WRC2 Pro entries (Ostberg’s Citroen, Greensmith’s Fiesta and Bulacia’s Skoda). The only private entry from Europe will be Kajetan Kajetanowicz’s VW Polo GTI R5. Of the 27 cars, seven are entered in the National category.

Traditionally this is probably the roughest rally in the WRC, with the possible exception of the new Turkey event. Much of this is due to the embedded roads being unearthed by passing cars, and much depends on the existing condition of the roads after the wet summer periods.

For the first time in a long time there are only two weeks between successive WRC events. Special rules have been implemented regarding the closeness between Argentina and Chile, the following WRC event, to save costs.

This time the actual rally car, rather than simply critical components and so long as they finish the Argentina event, must not be changed between events.

Teams are making plans to re-prepare their cars in the Villa Carlos Paz service park in Argentina, rather than fly them back to headquarters in Europe. It is 1600km by road from Villa Carlos Paz across the Andes to Chile and trucks expect to take two to three days for the journey.

Hyundai Shell Mobil go to Argentina 12 points ahead in the manufacturers’ championship of Citroen Total team, while in the drivers’ championship Neuville now leads Sebastien Ogier by two points.

The M-Sport drivers Lucasz Pieniazek and M-Sport driver Gus Greensmith are heading in the WRC2 Pro series.

 

Team by Team

Citroen

Two car team (Ogier and Lappi). Poor performance in Corsica was not a specific technical problem but results of understeer and lack of performance.

This has been assigned to an incorrect set-up which the team could not correct in Corsica because of the restrictions imposed on the sealing of component parts.

Requirements for success in Argentine are reliability and adaptability to conditions. The event provides a wide variety of conditions. No major changes for Argentina.

Four days pre-Argentina testing in Portugal, two days for each driver. Same rally cars as used in Mexico. After the rally the cars will be re-prepared in the service park in Villa Carlos Paz and then sent in containers to Chile.

Argentina is an event never won by either team driver.

Hyundai

Three car team (Sordo, Neuville and Mikkelsen). Although Thierry Neuville won the Corsica rally, there was disappointment at the frustrating delay of Sebastien Loeb which lost him a chance of success and the general lack of performance compared with the opposition.

Loeb spent his rally helping with developing the correct set-up for the car and gain more experience with the car.

Requirements for success in Argentina include good reactivity because some stages are quite fast, and good driving techniques to accelerate effectively out of corners.

Pre-Argentina testing carried out in Portugal (Amarate and Ponte de Lima), half day each for each driver (including Loeb). Chassis 16 for Neuville, 11 for Sordo (then for Loeb in Chile) and 9 for Mikkelsen.

This will be Sordo’s 13th Argentina event. None of the team’s drivers has won in Argentina.

 

M-Sport

Two car team (Suninen and Evans). No technical problems in Corsica. The first two days in Argentina are smoother and fast which require a good chassis set-up, but attention needs to be paid to bedrock which breaks through the surface. The third day, however, can be incredibly rough where cars need to be very strong.

Pre rally testing was carried out in Greystoke Forest in England with one day for each driver. Same cars as on Corsica.

The logistics for the double event mean this is the first time in memory that rally cars had to be re-prepared away from M-Sport’s workshops in Britain, with three days work in Argentina then three days in Chile. Nearly all the team will stay in South America between the two events.

No previous win by either driver in Argentina.

 

Toyota

Three car team (Meeke, Tanak and Latvala). Big celebration for Toyota Gazoo Racing when Latvala starts his record-breaking 200th world championship rally!

Only unexpected problems in Corsica were the punctures and the broken wheels, which the team says were stronger than before.

Requirements for success in Argentina are good tyre management, a strong and reliable car. Only technical novelties in Argentina will be minor aero changes, ever present risk is fog.

Testing for the two South American rallies was at least one day per driver in south Portugal, second week in April. Cars to be used in Argentina and Chile are the same as used in Mexico. Cars will start to be re-prepared after Rally Argentina then transported to Chile where the rest of the wok will be carried out.

Each team driver has won the event once before.

Martin Holmes is widely considered as world rallying's most experienced, and most respected journalist. Martin covers the WRC, ERC and all major rally championships around the world.

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