The 38th edition of Rally Argentina is the fifth round of the 2018 WRC, the second of three long-haul rallies of the year.
The event is once again based at the popular lakeside resort town of Villa Carlos Paz. There are several changes in the route to last year.
Building work at the proposed location in Cordoba City means that the opening super special stage has been moved to a venue at Villa Carlos Park, while there has been a change of direction for the three traditional final day stages.
The twice run Copina stage, famous for crossing the iron chain bridges over a winding mountain river, is now to run uphill. The single stage on the Guilio Cesare stage, famous for the huge moonlike lunar rocks, is being run downhill. It is then over 80km to the finish in Carlos Paz.
It is the second of a run of three WRC events to be held within a six week timeframe. Main challenge of the event is avoiding damage from embedded rocks which work themselves loose, and handling the many water crossings which can become both wider and deeper after periods of rain.
The event has been based in Cordoba province every year since 1984 except for 1992, and except for the IRC event in 2010 it has been a round of the WRC since 1980. It has always been an unpredictable event.
Five different winners in three different makes of car over the last five years. And plenty of historic moments have happened here.
1981: first and only WRC win for Guy Frequelin (and the last WRC win for a Group 2 car), 1986 first WRC win for Miki Biasion, 1988 the only WRC win by a South American driver (by Jorge Recalde), 1989 was the first of only two WRC wins for Michael Ericsson, 2004 the final WRC win for Carlos Sainz, of the eight times Rally Argentina was run as a WRC event from 2005 to 2013 it was won by Sebastien Loeb, 2016 saw the only win so far for Hayden Paddon.
And of course the 1981 event was also the last occasion the (co-driving) winner would later become President of the FIA! Jean Todt, incidentally, had earlier been the winning co-driver in 1979 on the candidate Rally Argentina event.
Entries for the 2018 Rally Argentina, fifth round of this season’s World Rally Championship, have risen substantially compared with last year. Of the total of 22 starters last year, this year 30 entries have been accepted, an increase of 33%, on a par with the 29 crews which started this season’s previous long-haul event, Rally Mexico.
This time there are to be 12 WRC cars, 10 in WRC2, none in WRC3. In the teams, Teemu Suninen returns to M-Sport’s third car, at Citroen Racing Craig Breen is back alongside Kris Meeke, while Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi makes a return.
In the battle of the R5 cars, Skoda have registered championship entries for Pontus Tidemand and Kalle Rovanpera as well as a private, non-championship entry, for Ole Christian Veiby, and an entry from five times FIA Codasur champion Gustava Saba from Paraguay.
R5 rivals M-Sport are running cars for Gus Greensmith and prize drive winner Nil Solans. There are no R5 entries for Citroen or Peugeot, while the only Hyundai R5 car is that of twice Codasur champion Diego Dominguez, also from Paraguay.
Despite three entries from both Paraguay and Chile, there is a very poor entry of Argentine drivers. Apart from Alejandro Cancio, their only representatives are four drivers entered under National car rules.
In addition to the WRC part of the event, the rally counts for two other categories. Firstly, it counts as the second of the five rounds of this year’s FIA Codasur regional championship. This increases the total number of competitors by 15 (plus six crews competing concurrently in the main WRC category), and then there are 10 more competitors entered in the Copa ACA national series.
The WRC event will be held one week after the FIA’s candidate rally run in neighbouring Chile.
Team by TeamCitroen
No WRC technical issues were experienced in Corsica, the brake issues with the R5 cars identified and solutions in hand.
Argentina is the first time Citroen Racing has entered three World Rally Cars on the same event this year. Five day pre-event test in Portugal (two for Meeke and Breen, one for Al Qassimi).
Meeke has his Mexico car, Breen has Loeb’s Mexico car and Al Qassimi has Ostberg’s Sweden car, all being air-freighted to Argentina and all in normal gravel specification.
Special challenges identified by Citroen are the high altitude (up to 2000 metres) and also the emergence of damaging rocks unearthed by passing cars. Meanwhile, Adapta has announced (confirmed by Citroen Racing on social media) that Mads Ostberg will drive a C3 WRC in Portugal and in Sardinia.
Hyundai Motorsport drivers struggled in Corsica and plan special tarmac test sessions to prepare for Germany and Spain rallies. There was a three day test near Amarante in Portugal, one day each driver (including Sordo rather than Paddon again) and each using the same cars they had in Corsica, all being air-freighted and all prepared as they were for Mexico.
Special challenges identified for Argentina are the unpredictable weather conditions (including fog at higher altitudes), the frequent need to repair damage inflicted on the stages at service and the logistical stress caused by this long-haul event in the middle of a high pressure calendar period with three WRC events in six weeks.
Hyundai Motorsport has produced the winners for the last two years – Neuville won last year, while Paddon (absent from their team on this event) in 2016.
Good news. After missing Corsica, recuperating from his Mexico accident, Evans’s co-driver, Daniel Barritt, is back again! The cause of Bouffier’s engine failure in Corsica is still being investigated – it was the first M-Sport WRC engine failure in memory.
There was a one day pre-Argentina event test in Portugal for each driver. Chassis 7 (Mexico car) for Ogier, #8 for Evans (Corsica) and #4 for Suninen (Bouffier Corsica), all in standard rough gravel specification. All three cars, plus the R5 of the Chilean driver Alberto Heller (younger brother of Pedro), were sent by air-freight from Europe, the other M-Sport R5 cars were sent directly from Mexico.
Important R5 engine development included climatic chamber work. Argentina is M-Sport’s unsuccessful event. A Ford hasn’t won this event since 2002, none of the current M-Sport drivers has ever won Rally Argentina, though Evans finished second only 0.7 second behind the winner last year!
Reason for the poor performance at the start of Corsica was that there was less grip than expected. It was not an ideal set-up.
Five days testing in Sardinia for Argentina with all three drivers. The three rally cars are the same cars as used in Mexico, all three being air freighted to Argentina from Europe and prepared with suspension to accommodate the rough roads, and also to handle the water crossings which can be suddenly deep in bad weather.
Previous results for the team include only a victory for Jari-Matti Latvala in 2014, but Toyota Gazoo Racing Team Director, Tommi Makinen, won Rally Argentina three times 1996-98, and it has been 24 years since a Toyota victory on this event.
This will the first rally for Esapekka Lappi in Argentina.
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