MITSUBISHI WRC TEAM HEADS TO THE ARGENTINEAN WINTER As the FIA World Rally Championship heads into the second half of its season, the heat of the Mediterranean summer is replaced by cold winter weather in the southern hemisphere. Rally...
MITSUBISHI WRC TEAM HEADS TO THE ARGENTINEAN WINTER
As the FIA World Rally Championship heads into the second half of its season, the heat of the Mediterranean summer is replaced by cold winter weather in the southern hemisphere. Rally Argentina was first held as recently as 1979 and draws on a rich motorsport tradition, using twisting and challenging roads around Córdoba on which legendary drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio learned their skills in town-to-town races. It is without doubt one of the most testing rounds of the World Championship, for while many rallies now repeat stages in a compact area, this event roams from the cattle country to the north near Tanti and La Falda to the spectacular 2,000-meter mountain passes of El Cóndor and Giulio Césare to the south.
Heading across the Atlantic to South America, Rally Argentina is a daunting test with a fanatical following, hundreds of thousands of ecstatic fans cramming almost every kilometer of the route. Far in the distance, the lower slopes of the Andes can be seen from the host town and lakeside holiday resort of Villa Carlos Paz, near Córdoba - the country's second largest city - some 700 kilometers north east of Buenos Aires.
The event is a firm favorite of many of the crews and the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team will be fielding Harri Rovanperä/Risto Pietiläinen and "Gigi" Galli/Guido D'Amore in this, the ninth round of the series.
Harri Rovanperä has contested Rally Argentina no fewer than seven times, however the Finn has mixed results, having been blighted with technical problems on four occasions. In his first outing on this South American event (1997) he claimed a World 2 Liter victory, but it was then not until 2003 that he saw the finish ramp again. That year he finished a fine fourth overall and last year he and co-driver Risto Pietiläinen were again in the points, arriving back in Cordoba fifth.
"Argentina is a good rally with lots of nice spectators, great food and steaks in particular!" said Harri. "The stages are quite soft, with gravel not stones, and some stages are a little bit rough. In some ways some of the stages - in places - are quite similar to Turkey this year. I think it will be a particularly good event for our tires and hopefully it will stay dry and not too hot. My feeling now is that we can perhaps fight more closely with the leaders; it can be a very interesting rally I think".
Team-mates Gigi Galli and Guido D'Amore competed in Argentina for the first time last year, and the Italians - driving Mitsubishi's all-conquering Group N Lancer Evolution - were the revelation of the event. They held second for much of the rally and even briefly led before being sidelined on the final day with a mechanical problem.
"I like Argentina, absolutely, it's a good rally with an unbelievable amount of spectators", said Gigi. "There is always a lot of loose but hopefully we have the right Pirelli tires which should work very well in these conditions. If Torii-san says I must make maximum attack, it will be my pleasure! I think we can expect to make a good result and we have proved the reliability of the car is much better. Is it an event I can win? Anyway, as always I try my best to make a good result for Mitsubishi".
Despite the long haul across the Atlantic, Rally Argentina is a favorite on the calendar and even though it is hosted in the southern hemisphere's mid-winter, a warm welcome is always guaranteed by locals who are passionate about motorsport. The stages high in the mountains have played host to thrilling battles but the atmosphere is one of the event's most memorable features; the warm and friendly Argentineans trek miles into the hills on horseback to witness the world-class action, creating a fiesta mood with campfires and bar-b-ques. Rally Argentina poses a mix of demanding stages, a variety of wide and fast, narrow and rough stages conspiring to keep the crews on their toes. Numerous water crossings also pose a threat to machinery and this year the organizers believe there to be more than 17 along the route. The weather can also go from one extreme to the other, with the possibility of early morning frost, warm mid-twenty degree temperatures, sunshine, rain and fog at the heady heights of 2,000 meters. It therefore provides one of the most diverse challenges in the 16-round Championship.
Commenting on the event, Principal Rally Engineer Roger Estrada said: "The key features of Rally Argentina are the altitude, the winter conditions and of course the water splashes. We will be introducing an evolution on the rear suspension for this rally and hopefully this new geometry will increase performance, handling and speed. It was successful on the test and the drivers were happy".
Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports added: "We are now into the second half of the season and Rally Argentina is a fast event on the calendar. Harri and Gigi will make maximum attack and we will concentrate on challenging for the podium. The Lancer WRC05 showed good reliability and speed in Greece and I expect both crews to make a good result in Argentina".
2005 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship (Round 5/8)
22 MITSUBISHI LANCER EVOLUTION DRIVERS BIDDING FOR ARGENTINEAN GLORY
Twenty-two Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution drivers head to Rally Argentina, the fifth round of the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, eagerly awaiting one of the toughest tests of the season. It is familiar territory to a number of top Lancer Evolution drivers, for there is a strong South American contingent tackling the 2005 series, and therefore a strong prospect of a good result.
Mitsubishi's front-runner could well be local star Federico Villagra. So far, the Argentine Lancer Evolution driver has made a strong impression on rallies he has never contested before. His home event could be very different.
"I am looking forward to this rally very much", he said. "I think we have shown we can be fast this year, so it can be very good driving on stages I know better and with the support from the fans. I think all we need is some luck".
Italian Lancer Evolution driver Angelo Medeghini has gained confidence with every appearance during his comeback this season, but he will be on entirely unknown terrain in Argentina.
"I don't know exactly what to expect in Argentina", said Medeghini. "I hear the roads are interesting and quite different in different parts of the route. I hope we can finish the rally and if we have some luck, I think we can have a nice result".
Proven strength and performance ensure a strong Mitsubishi presence in the 77-car field. The entry also includes Chile's Luis Rosselot and Britain's Natalie Barratt, as well as a host of local stars not registered for the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, such as Martin Gallusser, Esteban Goldenhersch and Luciano Bernardi.
This year, Rally Argentina is based solely at the Pro Racing Complex, three kilometers to the east of the host town of Villa Carlos Paz. The venue will also open the action on Thursday evening (July 14), when it hosts two runs around its 3.02 kilometer super special stage. On Friday, however, the crews head into the mountains for the start of the classic action over some of the Championship's most famous stages. The opening leg, the longest of the event, takes in eight stages and 156.30 competitive kilometers while Saturday includes another seven stages and 114.35 competitive kilometers. Sunday's final day of competition includes just five stages and 64.13 kilometers, but takes in the most famous stages of the rally. El Cóndor, the highest stage at 2,195 meters, runs twice and is split by the renowned Giulio Césare. The grand finale then takes place back at the Pro Racing Complex, where another two runs over the super special stage will decide the outcome of the 25th anniversary Rally Argentina. In total, the route takes in 22 stages over a total distance of 1,216.94 kilometers.