After three triumphant victories for Volkswagen at the Rally Dakar, the Volkswagen Motorsport team is now looking to build on its success in South America and is highly motivated ahead of the fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (01–04 May) – the Rally Argentina. Looking back: the works team from Wolfsburg won the Rally Dakar in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and is unbeaten in Argentina so far. However, looking ahead is equally pleasing: the team arrives at this year’s rally leading the Manufacturers’ Championship, with its driver Sébastien Ogier at the top of the Drivers’ Championship and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia leading the co-driver competition. The Rally Argentina forms the third gravel rally of Volkswagen’s debut season in the WRC and thus represents the next big challenge. The event consists of seven special stages, each of which is tackled twice. A number of these are true WRC classics, making the Rally Argentina a real test for man and machine.
Typical Argentina: great demands and huge enthusiasm
A gravel surface, set against the backdrop of craggy rocks, and a rapturous welcome: the Rally Argentina is one of the highlights of the WRC calendar. Special stages like “El Condor” and “Mina Clavero/Giulio Cesare” are true classics and famous around the world. “El Condor”, for example, is defined by its diverse range of challenges: tight hairpins are followed by fast, wide corners. The “Mina Clavero/Giulio Cesare” is a completely different beast: while this special stage makes up the first part of the route up to the summit at 2,100 metres above sea level, “El Condor” heads downhill into the valley. When it comes to the characteristic of the two stages, the main difference is the weather – the sun is often still shining on the “Mina Clavero/Giulio Cesare” special stage, while “El Condor” is still shrouded in thick fog.
Undefeated in South America: Volkswagen back at the scene of its greatest success
Like a home race: when Volkswagen lines up at the Rally Argentina, it will mark the return of the works team from Wolfsburg to the continent, on which it enjoyed its greatest sporting success to date. In March 2005, the Volkswagen Race Touareg won the Rally por las Pampas through Argentina to claim its maiden triumph in marathon rallying. The first of three milestones in the works commitment to desert rallies followed in 2009, with victory at the Rally Dakar: this was the first win for a diesel-powered vehicle at the toughest endurance rally in the world, and was also the first time the route had taken competitors through Argentina and Chile. Volkswagen repeated its success in 2010 and 2011 – claiming all three podium places on both occasions. In 2012, Volkswagen lined up in the Super-2000 category of the World Rally Championship with its Group brand Škoda. Not only did it triumph in the Super-2000 class at the fifth round of the season – the Rally Argentina – but also finished an excellent seventh overall with Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (F/F).
Market leader in Argentina: Volkswagen the dominant force on the streets
Two production plants, 89 branches, and a market share of almost 25 per cent in the automobile sector: the Volkswagen Group increased his market leadership in Argentina last year. In 2012, the group sold 170,763 vehicles to customers. The overriding image on the streets is that of Volkswagen, making the Rally Argentina something of a home race for the WRC team from Wolfsburg. As well as the plant in Pacheco, Volkswagen also runs the plant in Córdoba, which was opened in 2001 and is located not far from the route of the World Rally Championship event.
Quotes ahead of the Rally Argentina
Jari-Matti Latvala, Polo R WRC #7
Sébastien Ogier, Polo R WRC #8
“After the three victories, we obviously want to continue where we left off and, ideally, defend our lead in the championship until the end of the season. For now, however, we would be happy with another podium in Argentina. I am looking forward to the duel with Sébastien Loeb. We had a great battle in Sweden, and it will be anything but easy again here. However, my main focus is on my rivals in the World Championship. The Rally Argentina may at first glance be just another gravel rally, but that first impression can be deceptive, as the ground is really soft and sandy. This means that the roads have often been cut up quite badly by the second run in the afternoon, and this puts the material under even greater strain. I really like the Rally Argentina, especially because of the fantastic atmosphere. At very few other places do so many fans flock to the special stages and service park.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Polo R WRC #9
“Looking back, I am generally very happy with the result of my first rally for Volkswagen in Portugal. It is now time to look ahead, as there are still some areas in which we can improve. As such, I can hardly wait for the start of the Rally Argentina. I am not concerned about my results. They will come sooner or later. It is all about gaining as much experience as possible. I am approaching the Rally Argentina full of confidence, as I lined up there last year in the Škoda Fabia S2000. I was involved in a nice duel with Sébastien Ogier before I had to retire shortly before the end of the rally. Despite this, I have fond memories of Argentina, and my co-driver Mikko Markkula also has experience of the Rally Argentina. I am already really looking forward to my second start in the Volkswagen Polo R WRC.”