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Rally Argentina preview

Rally Argentina Round 5 of the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship 3-6 May 2001 World rallying's top drivers are likely to face mixed conditions on the FIA World Rally Championship's visit to South America, the Rally Argentina, which starts from...

Rally Argentina
Round 5 of the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship
3-6 May 2001

World rallying's top drivers are likely to face mixed conditions on the FIA World Rally Championship's visit to South America, the Rally Argentina, which starts from Cordoba later this evening. The reconnaissance period for the event (the fifth round of this year's series) has been held in both rain and sunshine and although yesterday's final shakedown test took place in bright, dry weather, showers have been forecast for tomorrow's first full day of competition.

Mitsubishi driver Tommi Mäkinen starts the event with a six-point cushion over Carlos Sainz in the drivers' championship standings, but both can expect a backlash from three of the widely-tipped contenders, Marcus Grönholm (20 points adrift), Richard Burns (21 points adrift) and Colin McRae (24 points behind).

The gravel stages in Argentina are among the highest and fastest in the entire world championship, but crews will start the action this evening with two short superspecial stages on the outskirts of host town Cordoba.

MITSUBISHI (1st - 40 points)

Technical: The Lancer Evolution is basically unchanged from the specification used in Portugal, although testing in Cyprus, between Catalunya and this event, has at least allowed the team to rack up some dry gravel mileage.

Sporting: Four-time world champion and current series leader Tommi Mäkinen will be supported by Belgian Freddy Loix in the second Lancer as usual. The event marks the Belgian's 50th start in a World Rally Championship event and his achievement was marked by a presentation at the team's pre-event press conference. Mitsubishi announced yesterday evening that former SEAT driver Toni Gardemeister will drive a third Lancer for the team in Finland and New Zealand, and that Japanese driver Katsuhiko Taguchi will do the same in Cyprus.

Quotes:
Tommi Mäkinen said: "I've got a good record here but I don't know what the secret is. Although the stages can be fast there can also be tricky, twisty, rocky sections where it's important to get a good rhythm and keep a smooth driving style. I'm hopeful of a good result, of course, because we've already shown how good the Lancer can be on gravel this year."

Freddy Loix said: "This has been the first time in three years that I've seen such dry conditions here. I've got a good feeling for the car - the testing clearly went well because we couldn't really improve on the set-up for the car. My confidence has been building this year because the revised rear suspension on the Lancer makes it easier to drive."

FORD (2nd - 22 points)

Technical: Ford has made no substantial changes to the Focus RS WRC01 for this event.

Sporting: Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae are nominated for manufacturers' points, with François Delecour fighting for drivers' points only. However, the Spaniard's participation was cast in doubt by a back injury that forced him to miss part of the reconnaissance. Ford's physio and doctor have been trying to ease the Spaniard's discomfort, but he will only be able to start the event after taking painkillers. There remains the risk that even trying to complete a full day's competition could aggravate the condition further and jeopardise the Spaniard's participation in the coming rounds.

Quotes:
Carlos Sainz said: "I've felt better. The problem is basically a disc in my back that is pressing on the sciatic nerve, and it's very painful. The problem seemed to go away on Tuesday and I even felt like taking a run, but it started to give me pain again yesterday and this morning it was hard even to get up, or find a comfortable seating position."

Colin McRae said: "The position on the road will be our biggest problem, particularly on the opening day. Because we haven't scored any points this year we're running further down the starting order and that means we'll probably have to deal with rocks pulled into the road by the guys at the front. If it's wet, then the roads can cut up as well. But we just have to try, see what happens and hope our road position improves."

PEUGEOT (3rd - 20 points)

Technical: The three 206 WRCs will start this event in essentially the same technical configuration used in Portugal. The 'evolution' version of the car is still scheduled to appear on the next event in Cyprus, providing sufficient supplies of spare parts can be sourced in time.

Sporting: Reigning FIA World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm and 1994 title-holder Didier Auriol are rejoined by Harri Rovanperä for this event. The Finn's programme with the French manufacturer was expanded to include all gravel rallies after he won the Swedish Rally and led the Rally of Portugal. Grönholm and Auriol remain Peugeot's nominees for manufacturers' points, however.

Quotes:
Marcus Grönholm said: "We need to start winning, but I have quite a good feeling here. Depending on the weather the position on the road could make a difference, but we'll just have to push hard and see what happens. We certainly can't let Tommi get any further away in the championship because it's already looking difficult."

Didier Auriol said: "I really like this rally, but the recce was quite difficult because we had a lot of rain. The superspecial is not really the type of stage I like either, so for me the rally really starts tomorrow."

SUBARU (4th - 8 points)

Technical: Subaru has tested extensively to improve the reliability and performance of the Impreza WRC2001 after a difficult start to the season. Small engine modifications, including a revised airbox, are said to have brought benefits.

Sporting: Richard Burns and Petter Solberg are nominated to score manufacturers' points for Subaru in Argentina, with Japanese driver Toshihiro Arai nominated for drivers' points only. The team's other regular driver, Markko Martin, is unlikely to appear again until the Acropolis Rally in mid-June.

Quotes:
Richard Burns said: "I really need to win the next three rallies if I'm to get my title bid back on track but as always, it's not going to be easy. Even though we took a victory here last year it's the sort of rally that can catch you out easily and the weather conditions look pretty variable too. Our position on the road probably won't be ideal either, but the car's felt pretty good in testing so all we can do is try to get as far up the order on the first day as possible."

Petter Solberg said: "I'm tired of people asking me if the pressure's getting to me. Of course there's pressure but I know in myself what I have to do and I'm confident that I can achieve my goals. I'm just going to go out there, set a comfortable pace and not pay any attention to what everyone else is doing. That way I can stay more focused on the driving, without worrying about having to finish, pacing myself or fighting for a top placing."

HYUNDAI (5th - 8 points)

Technical: Hyundai's two Accent WRC2s are similar to the specification that was used in Portugal, although the Motor Sport Developments-run team has tested revised suspension and transmission for the rougher conditions the car will face in Argentina, and on the next two rallies in Cyprus and Greece.

Sporting: Alister McRae will be rejoined by Hyundai's Swedish veteran Kenneth Eriksson for this event. The team's asphalt specialist Piero Liatti has been linked to an appearance in an Accent in Germany early in July, but team sources insist that such an outing remains subject to suitable budget being found.

Quotes:
Alister McRae said: "We've basically tested for rough surfaces so we've made good changes to the suspension. And the hydraulics in the differentials are working more efficiently, which should help us if - as expected - the rain falls and the conditions get slippery."

Kenneth Eriksson said: "It was great to get back into the car after a while off. I've very happy with my set-up now, because the differential control has improved and we spent time working on the chassis. It's hard to say what we can achieve here but I'd like to think we can look towards the points."

SKODA (6th - 6 points)

Technical: Skoda's Octavia WRCs (seen in South America for the first time on this event) are similar to those that were used in Portugal. The Czech team continues to work on a heavily revised engine in testing, but it elected not to use the new unit in Argentina because the high altitude would make it more difficult to accurately rate the improvements. A debut on the Cyprus Rally is still possible, although team officials are determined to introduce the engine only when its reliability is proven.

Sporting: Armin Schwarz and Bruno Thiry will drive the team's two Octavia WRCs as usual.

Quotes:
Armin Schwarz said: "I've still got a lot to learn about this rally. The weather on the recce was pretty bad and it was hard to make good pacenotes in such poor visibility. But given reliability, I think the stages here should suit our car. It's important for me to learn the stages for next year."

Bruno Thiry said: "I like this rally. It's quite fast and yet rough in places - like a cross between Portugal and Greece. I think we've got a pretty good set-up for this event - we improved the suspension during a test in Greece recently and we made small changes during the shakedown here. If it does rain, though, conditions will be very slippery and the level of grip will vary from corner to corner."

CITROEN (0 points)

After its strong showing on the Xsara WRC's debut in Catalunya, Citroen has concentrated on testing the car in preparation for its world championship gravel debut, on the Acropolis Rally in Greece next month. The team is not present in Argentina.

OTHER TEAMS

Rally Argentina is not a round of either FIA Teams Cup or the FIA Super 1600 Cup, so the leading entries beyond the factory World Rally Cars come from contenders in the FIA Cup for Drivers of Production Cars. Many of the leading challengers, including current series front-runner Gabriel Pozzo, multiple category champion Gustavo Trelles and former world champion Stig Blomqvist will be present. That trio will drive Mitsubishis, but they could face competition from local Subaru drivers Roberto Sanchez and Claudio Menzi.

STAGE ITINERARY

Leg 1, Thursday 3rd May (Super Special only)

SS1  19:15  Complejo Pro-Racing Lane A                  3.44km
SS2  19:15  Complejo Pro-Racing Lane B                  3.44km

Leg 1 cont, Friday 4th May

SS3  09:22  La Falda - Rio Ceballos                     29.96km
SS4  10:40  Ascochinga - La Cumbre 1                    28.83km
SS5  12:08  Capilla del Monte - San Marcos Sierra       23.02km
SS6  12:39  San Marcos Sierra - Charbonier              9.61km
SS7  14:15  La Cumbre - Agua de Oro                     23.46km
SS8  15:08  Ascochinga - La Cumbre 2                    28.83km

Leg 2, Saturday 5th May

SS9   09:16  S. R. de Calamuchita - S. Agustin 1        26.10km
SS10  09:59  San Agustin - Villa General Belgrano       12.65km
SS11  10:57  Amboy - S. Rosa de Calamuchita 1           17.48km
SS12  12:16  S. R. de Calamuchita - S. Agustin 2        26.10km
SS13  12:59  Las Bajadas - Villa del Dique              16.42km
SS14  13:42  Amboy - S. Rosa de Calamuchita 2           17.48km
SS15  16:18  Camping General San Martin                 4.20km

Leg 3, Sunday 6th May

SS16  09:06  Cura Brochero - Cienaga de Allende         13.63km
SS17  09:47  El Mirador - San Lorenzo 1                 20.65km
SS18  11:21  Chamico - Ambul                            24.60km
SS19  12:05  El Mirador - San Lorenzo 2                 20.65km
SS20  13:48  Mina Clavero - Giulio Cesare               22.26km
SS21  14:35  El Condor - Copina                         16.77km

-FIA/WRC-

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Freddy Loix , Toshihiro Arai , Richard Burns , Harri Rovanpera , Didier Auriol , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , François Delecour , Alister McRae , Armin Schwarz , Kenneth Eriksson , Gustavo Trelles , Toni Gardemeister , Piero Liatti , Katsuhiko Taguchi , Gabriel Pozzo , Markko Martin
Teams Citroën World Rally Team