Passionate Land Awaits The Mitsubishi WRC Team After three rough gravel rallies hosted around the Mediterranean, the FIA World Rally Championship now takes the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports team to Argentina for the only round to be hosted on...
Passionate Land Awaits The Mitsubishi WRC Team
After three rough gravel rallies hosted around the Mediterranean, the FIA World Rally Championship now takes the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports team to Argentina for the only round to be hosted on the South American continent. Rally Argentina (July 15-18), the eighth round of the series, will see Gilles and Hervé Panizzi joined by Finland's Kristian Sohlberg and Kaj Lindström and the team will be looking to build on the progress made during the recent Rally of Turkey.
"Argentina is another different event for us and with the regulations stating no testing on long haul events, we are heading into the unknown with this car, unlike many of the other teams", commented the team's Technical Director Mario Fornaris. "We will go there with a standard set-up and try to improve the car for this surface during shakedown and the event, but our priority is to get the reliability to enable us to learn more. Gilles and Kristian have very little experience of the event so I guess it will be quite difficult for them, but the progress we made in Turkey was good and I hope we can build on that".
After a three month break, the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship contenders will also be back in action in an event viewed as real Mitsubishi territory. Both "Dani" Solà and "Gigi" Galli will be piloting Group N Lancer Evolutions and gunning for Mitsubishi's 22nd victory in this category in Rally Argentina.
Gilles and Hervé Panizzi have, surprisingly, previously only contested Rally Argentina once but their lack of knowledge of the stages in the Punilla, Calamuchita and Traslasierra valleys is unlikely to deter the French duo as they continue to develop the Lancer WRC04.
"In Turkey we found some things which make the car more balanced and easier to drive; I hope it also works on the difficult gravel surface in Argentina. Personally for me the rally in Argentina is not so well known, as I have not so much experience on this terrain, but after Turkey I would say points should be possible".
Despite competing around the globe in Group N machinery, Kristian Sohlberg has only completed the recce in Argentina (2003), purely for experience, although co-driver Kaj Lindström has greater experience having co-driven Mitsubishi's former World Champion Tommi Mäkinen on two occasions.
"Having only done the recce I think it's quite hard to expect too much, but even so my objective is to get points for Mitsubishi", commented Kristian. "The rally is quite fast but some parts are pretty rough, and also the altitude adds another dimension. I also heard last week that there's a lot of snow around El Cóndor, so it's going to be a cold event with lots of mud and slippery stages; it will be very interesting. Tire-wise, we are prepared for every possible weather condition".
Rally Argentina is one of the most popular events in the 16-round FIA World Rally Championship and, despite being hosted in the middle of winter, a warm welcome is always guaranteed by locals who are passionate about motorsport. Long before the rally was created, places such as Tanti and Cosquín hosted town-to-town races that nurtured such legendary drivers as Juan-Manuel Fangio and, now, the descendents of the fans who watched those races trek into the mountains in their hundreds of thousands, cheering on today's heroes. The event is based in the tourist resort of Villa Carlos Paz, near the bustling industrial city of Córdoba, 700 kilometers northwest of Buenos Aires, and the rock-strewn stages that run across plains and barren mountain ranges are some of the highest in the World Championship, posing a tough test for engines and electronics.
2004 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship - Round 4
Mitsubishi Drivers Target 22nd Victory in Argentina
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution drivers head to Rally Argentina seeking a 22nd South American victory and their fourth in as many rounds of the 2004 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship. However, despite the Lancer Evolution's formidable record this season, even drivers of the caliber of series leader "Dani" Solà know that competition is so strong they will have a real fight on their hands.
Mitsubishi's Production Car series leader Dani Solà has made a strong start to the season and having come second in class in Argentina last year, he is eagerly looking forward to getting behind the wheel of his Lancer Evolution once more.
"This is a difficult rally, because the stages can be so different and the surface changes. Also, many of them will be new to me, but I have a good feeling with the car and I think we can get a good result", said Solà.
For Italian Lancer Evolution driver Gigi Galli, Argentina will be an entirely fresh challenge but one he relishes, especially after a points-scoring result for Mitsubishi on the Rally of Turkey at the end of June.
"I think this is one of the special rallies in the World Championship, so it is good for me to get experience. But we also need points, so I have to make sure I finish. It will be tough", Galli commented.
For Mexican Ricardo Triviño, Argentina represents more familiar territory and another chance to impress in his Lancer Evolution against ultra-tough opposition. "It is a long way from México, but it is a bit like being at home to drive here", he said. "The fans are amazing and it is an incredible rally because of their reaction on all the stages".
The favorites will also include Austria's former Group N World Champion Manfred Stohl and Finnish team-mate Jani Paasonen in their OMV World Rally Team Lancer Evolutions, especially after Stohl's maximum points haul in New Zealand, while Japan's Fumio Nutahara and Spaniard Xavier Pons will also be aiming to make their mark. Outside the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, San Marino driver Mirco Baldacci will be worth watching in his similar car.
The 24th Rally Argentina returns to a more traditional route that takes the contenders over three very distinct legs, remote re-fueling zones in La Cumbre, Santa Rosa de Calamuchita and Copina allowing the route to spread over a wider geographic area. The event kicks off on Thursday July 15 with two runs over the now famous super special stage at the Pro-Racing complex on the outskirts of Villa Carlos Paz, but the first full day of action on Friday, the longest of the event, takes the crews to the north for a further eight stages, before returning for another two runs around the super special stage. The second leg, on Saturday, heads to the west and south and takes in nine stages and 129.39 competitive kilometers, including the super special stages, while the final day includes just five stages, but some of the most famous of the rally. The 2004 Rally Argentina includes 26 stages and 382.63 competitive kilometers in a total distance of 1,347.27 kilometers.