Challenging conditions expected in Argentina New stages introduced as old classics disappear Skoda Motorsport target more manufacturer points Rain, sunshine, fog and wind: every extreme of weather can be seen on the Rally Argentina, round 5 of...
Challenging conditions expected in Argentina
New stages introduced as old classics disappear
Skoda Motorsport target more manufacturer points
Rain, sunshine, fog and wind: every extreme of weather can be seen on the Rally Argentina, round 5 of 2003 World Rally Championship (May 8 -- 11), and it forms a unique challenge for the Skoda Motorsport Team.
The two Skoda Octavia WRCs will as always be driven by 1994 World Champion Didier Auriol and young Finn Toni Gardemeister. Both drivers love the challenging terrain, which tests men and machines to their limits.
Didier Auriol has won the event twice, and has enjoyed a podium finish on four further occasions.
"I've always had a very good feeling with this rally," said Didier. "Not just with the driving, but also with the people and the country. Everybody is so enthusiastic. We will be pushing as hard as we can from the start, so our tactic is easy to guess! Our plan is like New Zealand: we don't realistically stand a chance of winning, but we need to be as close to the front as possible. Argentina is a very unpredictable rally: I'm looking forward to it!"
It's easy to see why Didier likes the place so much. Argentina is well-known as 'cowboy country', with rolling pampas and misty mountains. Cities like Buenos Aires and Cordoba are cosmopolitan and bustling, but the scenery is spectacularly remote in the countryside where the rally takes place. The event is based in Villa Carlos Paz, a holiday resort an hour's flight west of Buenos Aires. The party atmosphere there is unrivalled.
Last year Skoda Auto had a lot to celebrate as both cars finished in the top six, ensuring a useful haul of manufacturer points. Skoda Auto are currently fifth in this year's series, moving closer and closer to the top teams.
Toni Gardemeister, who finished fifth overall on the 2002 Rally Argentina said: "I like it a lot, although this year will be quite difficult as many of the stages are new. This season has been good for us so far and I feel very motivated to go flat-out. I hope the weather stays dry: I don't really like fog and rain although we tend to go well under difficult conditions. Argentina is an interesting place though - the steaks are very nice!"
Grilled meat is not the only famous thing about Argentina. The country is also well-known for the tango and horse-riding. Argentina's population is a vibrant mix of nationalities. But one thing they all have in common is an intense passion for rallying.
The spectators flock to the stages in their thousands, cheering on their heroes whatever the weather. Argentina is a classic gravel rally with some fast sections and other slower parts. There are huge jumps and spectacular watersplashes. Other stages resemble a lunar landscape, as drivers dodge football-sized rocks at high speed.
Skoda Motorsport Team principal Pavel Janeba is optimistic heading into the fifth round of the World Rally Championship, although he warns that all of the teams will face a struggle.
"Many of the classic stages have been removed from the rally this year, so there are some new stages to learn for everybody," he said. "We're happy with the results we have gained so far this year, and it is a question of trying to maintain this progress in Argentina."
The Rally Argentina gets underway with a spectator superspecial in Villa Carlos Paz on the evening of Thursday May 8. Crews tackle a total of 25 special stages before the finish in Villa Carlos Paz on the afternoon of Sunday May 11.