Citroen Sport ready to tango in the sierra Rally Argentina has so much that makes it a unique experience, from the tremendous welcome of its aficionados, the turn-by-turn descriptions of the radio commentators and the region's breathtaking ...
Citroen Sport ready to tango in the sierra
Rally Argentina has so much that makes it a unique experience, from the tremendous welcome of its aficionados, the turn-by-turn descriptions of the radio commentators and the region's breathtaking landscapes, to the makeshift asados barbecuing what could well be the best meat in the world and also some of the sport's most selective stages. This year, the South American event is the fourth round of the 2008 WRC and Citroen has entered its usual crews Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Marti, while a private C4 tended by PH Sport with support from Citroen Technologies technicians has been entered by Conrad Rautenbach/David Senior.
During week the event is in town, rally fever takes over the city of Cordoba and the otherwise peaceful shores of San Roque Lake in Villa Carlos Paz where the service park is based. Thousands of spectators are expected to line this year's 347.91km of stages which will take crews across the gravel tracks that wind through the sierra high above the Punilla, Calamuchita and Traslasierra valleys.
"Argentina is one of the most complete rallies of the season," says Citroen Sport's Technical Manager Xavier Mestelan-Pinon. "The drivers face several different types of surface, ranging from smooth and hard-packed to rough and sandy. There are some high-speed jumps which call for a certain amount of caution, too, as well as numerous water-splashes which are one of this event's specialities. It takes good notes to know exactly how fast each one can be tackled. Our first visit here with the C4 last year showed that the car was competitive. This time round, with one year's extra experience under our belts and following the testing done by the team with the car on Pirelli tyres, we hope we have succeeded in taking our package further forward and that we can come away from Argentina with a top result."
With six previous starts to his name, Marc Marti is the most experienced of Citroen Sport's four crew members here. "The atmosphere in Argentina is something else," he beams. "It's a bit like home soil for us, too, and I have many fond memories of the event, including my win with Carlos Sainz in 2004. Each of the three legs is different, with twisty stages on Day 1, then much faster, quite treacherous ground on Saturday before the weekend concludes with two classic tests on Sunday: 'Giulio Cesare' and 'El Condor'. There are also plenty of water- crossings through which you really have to be careful if you don't want to damage your car."
Citroen has gone unbeaten in Argentina since 2004, and Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo are both intent on continuing this winning streak. "I really do enjoy this event. It's one of the best of the year," admits the defending World Champion. "There's always a very special atmosphere and it's nice to see such enthusiastic spectators. Daniel and I have won the last three events and another victory would put us back on top of the championship standings. However, that's not an absolute priority; above all, I hope we are competitive. The major unknown factor concerns how our tyres will perform. We are forced to run hard compound Pirellis which isn't ideal for Argentina's sandy, low-wearing stages. We will need to find a set- up that gives us as much grip as possible."
"Another rally in a Spanish-speaking country! That's nice," adds Dani Sordo. "I hope we will fare better than we did in Mexico, although I must say that Rally Mexico showed me that my gravel driving technique is getting better and better. I will need to have the same feeling in Villa Carlos Paz if I want to score a top result. I like this event; I like its fast, varied stages, and the spectacular positions we find ourselves in when we land after certain jumps... We went well with the C4 here last year and we will do our best to do the same this time round to try to secure a good finish in terms of the Manufacturers' championship."