Michelin in gaucho country After a faultless run in New Zealand and in the four recent Mediterranean rim rounds (Sardinia, Cyprus, Turkey and Greece), Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena, their Citroen Xsara WRC and Michelin's Z BTO tyres travel to...
Michelin in gaucho country
After a faultless run in New Zealand and in the four recent Mediterranean rim rounds (Sardinia, Cyprus, Turkey and Greece), Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena, their Citroen Xsara WRC and Michelin's Z BTO tyres travel to South America for Rally Argentina, Round 9 of the 2005 FIA World Rally Championship. This winter event organised in middle of the northern hemisphere summer marks the start of the second half of this year's calendar, with Sebastien Loeb and Citroen-Michelin leading the provisional Drivers' and Manufacturers' points tables.
This year sees Rally Argentina celebrate the 25th anniversary of its presence in the World Rally Championship. Organised in the Tucuman region, the inaugural event as a WRC qualifier was won by Walter Rohrl (Fiat 131 Abarth), while Guy Frequelin co-driven by Jean Todt, and today team boss at Citroen Sport followed in the German driver's footsteps the following year driving a Talbot Sunbeam Lotus-Michelin.
Since 1984, Rally Argentina has been based in the province of Cordoba, barely a hundred kilometres from the first peaks of the Andes Mountains. The 'El Condor' stage, which starts at an altitude of more than 2,000 metres, and the 'Giulio Cesare' test, which snakes between huge blocks of granite, have provided spectacular backdrops to some of the most thrilling showdowns in the history of world class rallying. In 1994, Didier Auriol (Toyota-Michelin) came out on top in his epic duel with Carlos Sainz by a mere six seconds.
In the wake of Tommi Makinen's hat-trick of wins with Mitsubishi- Michelin between 1996 and 1998, another memorable battle opposed Subaru drivers Juha Kankkunen and Richard Burns in 1999. The 2003 event saw Marcus Gronholm score Peugeot-Michelin's first victory here since the French make's maiden success in the sierra eighteen years previously. Last year, Citroen-Michelin's Carlos Sainz claimed the 26th WRC win of his career an outright record in front of the many, many thousands of fans who flocked to the stages.
This year's Rally Argentina will once again criss-cross the celebrated Punillia, Calamutchita and Traslasierra valleys which offer some of the finest and most technically demanding stages of the entire World Championship, including such classic as 'El Condor', 'Giulio Cesare', 'Ascochinga', 'La Cumbre' and 'Santa Rosa de Calamuchita'. The wide variety of stage surfaces we face makes this a particularly difficult rally," says Michelin Competition's Rally Programme Manager Aime Chatard. A wide variety of surface types "The route switches from dusty stages to much stonier or much sandier surfaces, like those encountered on Day 2, for example. The stages themselves are narrow and ruts tend to form between two runs. Last but not least, changeable weather conditions can make this event even trickier still. This is the middle of the southern hemisphere winter, so it could be quite cold and the weather is often unsettled. The 'El Condor' stage is frequently shrouded in thick fog and covered in mud."