Top 5 the plan for Atko in Argentina
- 26th March 2008, 2:48pm
Atkinson has been in great form this season, recording a second at his last start in Mexico and a third in opening round at Monte Carlo. But the Queenslander heads in to the Argentinean rally less confident of a top result in an event where experience counts for so much.
This is just his fourth Rally Argentina. His best placing was a sixth in 2006, and he is targeting a top five result this time around.
“Argentina is probably one of the most difficult rallies for me,” Atkinson said.
“It seems to be a rally you need quite a bit of experience at, and that suits those who’ve been here for a long time. You’ll recall Sainz and other greats winning this rally and making their careers because of it, and it’s a rally I’ve still to come to grips with speed-wise.
“I think we could be even more susceptible to punctures here than in Mexico so that will be an important factor.”
The event has been run in May as part of the World Rally Championship for the last two years, but this season sees the event brought forwards by six weeks in a return to March running which may present more unpredictable weather to add to the mix.
Each of the three days on this demanding event pitches crews against a different backdrop and road surface, making for an incredibly varied event in which those who are fast on one day may slip back the next.
The stages on day one are very fast and similar to those in Mexico, while competition on day two is run on a very hard base of sand. Day three climbs high into the mountains and is very twisty. Such is the variation that the team will approach each day anew.
The rally is based in Villa Carlos Paz in the city of Cordoba, nestled into the banks of the San Roque Lake. The service park lies at a height of 650 metres above sea level, but stages rise steeply into the surrounding mountains to a peak of 2100 metres, making this another high-altitude encounter.
Road position is particularly important as crews who are able to run the stages before the loose surface deteriorates too badly will gain significant advantage. The second passes of the stages in the afternoon will likely be increasingly treacherous for those further down the order as the ruts cut deep into the road. On the tough tests and in the inconsistent conditions, drivers must perform consistently to stay at the front.
The stages consist of medium - to high-speed routes that flow through the mountains in and around Cordoba, with a superspecial stage held inside the Cordoba Stadium. Crews will use the same hard compound variant of Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyre as debuted in Mexico.
This rally is extremely tough on cars as the environment is harsh and unforgiving and the high altitude robs the engines of power on the final day.
The event comprises 21 stages over 352 competitive kilometres through the Punilla Valley to the north of Cordoba, Santa Rosa de Calamuchita to the south and Traslasierra to the west. The spectator Superspecial stage inside the Cordoba Stadium will be run a total of three times, once at the end of each day.
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