The next round of the world championship takes us to South America and onto the rough and rocky roads of Argentina, with a twist.
The tough South American round gets even harder for the crews as it will be the first time we shall see the WRC’s ‘new generation’ take to asphalt on this weekends mixed surface event.
The stages. Friday’s first leg will be held on technical roads, which contrasts with day 2, which is based in fast, sandy stages and characterised by jumps and water crossings. Day 3 contains what is probably the longest test in the championship this season and will start off with the long 48km stage. Due to the surface mixture and tough high altitude rocky classic stages such as Mina Clavero and El Condor, it will be important for the drivers to adapt to the changes in rhythm each day.
Who will win? Argentina last appearance in the world championship back in 2009, and Citroen have remained undefeated in Argentina since 2004, and after four straight victories for the French team in the DS3 by Loeb and Ogier, they are feeling very confident in the build up to the event.
With the last performance in Sardinia and his unbeaten talent on sealed surfaces, Sebastien Loeb is favourite to win and is confident he can make Citroen’s 5 in a row this weekend. “It’s a good sign to see that the Citroën DS3 WRCs seems to have a slight advantage on gravel, but the gaps are tiny at the end of each rally,” Loeb said, talking to WRC.com. “We’ll have to be quick right from the start, and go pedal to the metal till the end as with a stage of 48 kilometres to start the last day, there’s no question of letting up.”
But the Fords aren’t far behind in the championship, Hirvonen just 7 points behind Loeb but hasn’t won a rally since Sweden at the beginning of the season, and hasn’t won on Gravel since 2009. The boys of the blue oval admit that it will be a tough event but Hirvonen Believes he can repeat the result and pace from Sardinia. “There is a little bit of everything in this rally – gravel, asphalt, river crossings, long stages. May is late autumn in Argentina and we can’t be sure how the weather will be. It could be warm and dry, which will make conditions tough for soft compound tyres, or it could be wet and muddy, which will make the asphalt slippery. My speed on the last round in Italy was good and I was happy with the pace of the car, so I’m confident I can reproduce that here.”
Petter Solberg is anther man who will be determined to go for glory, and will no doubt go ‘Flat out’ on the back of a great performance in Sardinia 3 weeks ago, where the Norwegian claimed his first podium of the season in his privately run team and Citroen’s DS3.
The others. M-Sport Stobart Ford world rally team will be one short this weekend as Petters Brother Henning Solberg will miss out this weekend to seal the deal with sponsors for the rest of the season. Britain’s Matthew Wilson will be making his fifth appearance on the rally, which was the scene of his first world championship point and stage win back in 2006. Mads Ostberg will be competing on the south American event for the first time. Making a return to the WRC since Portugal’s shake down smash will be Monster World Rally team driver and American super star Ken Block.
Also competing this weekend will be, Local hero Federico Villagra for the Munchi’s World rally team in a Ford Fiesta RS, Daniel Oliveira, who is using MINI’s new John Cooper Works WRC in competition for only the second time this season with the Brazil World rally team and Peter van Merksteijn Jr will be making his fourth appearance in the Citroen DS3.
This weekends Rally Argentina will also hold the next round of the PWRC, the WRC’s Production class.
Martin Semerad, a 22-year-old from Czech Republic, leads the standings after his victory back in Sweden and claiming third spot in Portugal back in March. Portugal winner Hayden Paddon is second, 15 points behind Semerad and fresh from winning Rally New Zealand, a round of his countries national championship, Paddon will be full of confidence but has never competed in South America before. Anther driver who will be gunning for victory this weekend is Swede Patrik Flodin, as he bids to recover from his frustrating start to the season.