The Event As the 2005 World Rally Championship season enters its second half, teams will travel to the Americas next week to contest round nine of the FIA series, Rally Argentina. After four high-temperature rough gravel rallies in the ...
As the 2005 World Rally Championship season enters its second half, teams will travel to the Americas next week to contest round nine of the FIA series, Rally Argentina.
After four high-temperature rough gravel rallies in the Mediterranean, teams will face a different type of challenge in the mid-winter conditions of the southern hemisphere. Run on the edge of the Pampas and in the hills close to the city of Cordoba, Rally Argentina is often cited as the most beautiful of the year. Breath-taking scenery and numerous water splashes make for spectacular viewing, and every year tens of thousands of fans flock to the stages to cheer on their favourites.
For the drivers, the event is characterised by high-speeds and fluctuating conditions. Loose gravel stages high in the mountains combine narrow, twisty sections with flat-out sprints and numerous surface changes. But while the roads offer a wide variety of conditions, the biggest question mark hangs over the weather. Rain - often torrential - is a common occurrence, and has the potential to turn each stage into a mud bath. An additional challenge is the altitude, Argentina is one of the highest events of the year, and with many stages running at more than 1,000 metres above sea level, the thinner air saps power from cars' engines.
The rally starts on Thursday 14 July with two sprints around a Superspecial stage at the Pro-Racing motorsport complex, 3km east of Villa Carlos Paz. It comprises three legs, 340 competitive kilometres and 22 timed stages. For the first time in the event's 25 year history, the Start, Service Park, Headquarters and Finish will all be at the Pro-Racing complex. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp at 1323hrs on Sunday 17 July.
The Subaru World Rally Team will be taking a two-car team to Argentina. The two Impreza WRC2005's will be driven by Petter Solberg (co-driven by Phil Mills) and Chris Atkinson (co-driven by Glenn MacNeall). Both Petter and Chris are eligible to score points in the Manufacturers' Championship.
Petter has competed in Argentina five times before. On his most recent outing in 2004 he made an excellent start and held the lead until a water-splash related engine problem brought his rally to a halt after SS4. Petter will be seeking to secure a good points finish next week. Rally Argentina is a brand new challenge for Subaru's youngest signing, Chris Atkinson. The Australian has never visited South America before and will be concentrating on learning more about his car in the specialist conditions.
"Argentina is a completely different rally compared to the others we've done recently. Our performance there last year was good and we were leading the event for a while so I'm feeling good about the potential. As a rally, I like it a lot and I think maybe it's one of the events where I can fight to the top. Certainly I'm expecting some tough competition, but we won't really know how good the other guys are until the rally begins, but I'm looking forward to getting out there. We are a team that likes a challenge and it's a type of motivation I respond well to."
"I've been doing my research, studying the TV footage from previous events and from what I can see it looks like a good rally. The roads are soft and tend to get fairly rutted, but I think they should suit my driving style. Of course, every rally is unique, but I reckon it looks pretty similar in places to one that I used to drive in Canberra as part of the Asia Pacific Championship. You never know, the experience I got there may help. As far as my objectives go, once again I'm planning to put in a solid performance and get experience of the whole rally. I think I was a little over cautious with my opening pace in Greece, and I'm hoping to attack a bit more next week."
The Car / The Challenge
Subaru World Rally Team Principal, David Lapworth Argentina in July represents quite a shift from the last few rallies. We'll be going to a cold event having spent the last two months in the European summer.
This rally is likely to feature a wide range of road and weather conditions and it will be the most versatile driver that will win the event. Conditions in Cyprus, Turkey and Greece are easier to predict and more constant, but Argentina is a real challenge and a driver has to be able to adapt his driving style very quickly. Even in stable weather there's a large contrast between stages, and so in unpredictable conditions the differences can be vast. In addition, the winter date means the water splashes are likely to be deep, which can be damaging to the cars. There is sometimes a temptation for drivers to hit the long fords at high speed, but at 120kph it's almost like hitting a brick wall, which can result in broken bumpers and other more serious damage.
After some tough events for our team recently, Argentina presents a very different road surface, and it's one that has suited our Pirelli tyres well in the past. The types of tyre and compounds we will use in Argentina are different to those used on recent rallies, where in some circumstances we have been suffering relative to the competition. Rally Argentina is a very different animal. Tactics wise, I think we're going to wait and see. We have every reason to think that the whole situation will be different to the last few rallies. We're in a different zone, with different tyres, and different conditions. We'll wait and see where we are in Argentina before we show our hand."
Between the Rallies
It has been a busy few weeks for all three SWRT drivers since the last rally in Greece. Straight after the Acropolis, Stephane and Chris racked up the kilometres on a five-day tarmac development test in France, while Petter few to Tokyo for a promotional trip with Subaru. There, Petter took part in driving displays of the latest Subaru models, and helped publicise the forthcoming Japanese round of the WRC in Hokkaido. On his return from Japan, Peter flew to Finland for a Pirelli tyre test and will have one day at home before leaving for Argentina on Friday.