Cordoba-Villa Carlos Paz
Argentina hosts round three of the Production Car World Rally Championship this week with several young stars anxious to impress in the closely fought showroom category.
Martin Semerad, a 22-year-old from Czech Republic, heads the standings after landing victory in Sweden and claiming third spot in Portugal back in March. Portugal winner Hayden Paddon is second, 15 points behind Semerad, but the focus will be on Swede Patrik Flodin as he bids to recover from his frustrating start to the season.
Flodin, runner-up in the PWRC in 2010, was expected to dominate the category this season but has endured a disappointing run. He was excluded from Rally Sweden after his Uspenskiy Subaru Impreza failed a technical inspection. On the next round in Portugal, he rolled heavily and could only muster a solitary championship point.
But with experience of the Argentine stages to call upon, the 27-year-old Flodin could at long last land the victory his pace has threatened all season.
Paddon, 24, arrives in South America fresh from his victory on the recent Rally New Zealand, which counted as a round of his domestic championship. Unlike Flodin, Paddon has never competed in Argentina before but has vowed not to use that as an excuse when he lines up for Thursday’s opening superspecial in his Symtech Impreza.
“I have studied many hours of in-car footage of the event and parts of it look very rough,” said the double New Zealand champion. “Although flowing in nature, the stages in Argentina are known to be slightly slower and more technically demanding than some other WRC events. In saying that, there also look to be some fast sections which I always enjoy.”
Valeriy Gorban holds third place in the PWRC drivers’ table prior to Argentina but hasn’t included the event as one of his six scoring rounds. His absence could play into the hands of countryman Yuriy Protasov, who is currently four points behind Gorban in the championship.
Michal Kosciuszko will also be looking to make up ground in the standings after a troubled debut in Portugal when he retired from the opening day with a mechanical fault on his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. The Pole is highly rated and will be a contender for a podium finisher in Argentina.
Peruvian champion Nicolas Fuchs and Mexican Benito Guerra will also be in contention, while Italian veteran Gianluca Linari is likely to be among the point scorers in his Impreza.
Briton Harry Hunt is the sole contender in the Production Car Cup for Drivers of two-wheel-drive machines. The 22-year-old has never competed in Argentina before but is more than aware of the need to preserve his Citroen DS3 R3 over the touch rock-strewn roads around Carlos Paz.
Rally Argentina organisers have nominated two local drivers to chase points under the wildcard entry system. They are Alejandro Levy and Ezequiel Campos, who will both be at the wheel of Lancer Evolution IXs. Like Semerad, they will also be using DMACK’s medium compound gravel tyre, compared to the bulk of their rivals who have opted for Michelin covers.