Argentina : Subaru World Rally Team - Preview
After two consecutive asphalt events the FIA World Rally Championship returns to gravel for round six of the series, Rally Argentina. The WRC's only visit to South America takes place around the city of Cordoba from 27 – 30 April.
The rally is run through dramatic scenery on the edge of the flat, grassy Pampas and in the Sierras Chicas hills close to Cordoba. The varied landscape produces numerous changes of road surface and character as narrow, loose gravel stages high in the mountains combine with flat-out harder-packed sprints in the valleys.
Although Mexico has superseded Argentina as the rally with the highest average altitude, many of the Argentine stages are more than 1,000 metres above sea level, with Leg three's El Condor stage peaking at 2,195 metres. Such high altitude produces its own challenges as power output is reduced as a direct consequence of the air being thinner.
If the reduced power, high speeds and bumpy terrain weren't enough of a test, there's always the famous watersplashes. Getting the right line and speed on approach is crucial, and with 17 watersplashes in total, there are many potential hazards.
The weather may throw another tough element into the mix. Rain, wind and fog could be the daily forecast as this year the rally takes place in the South American autumn, almost three months earlier than last year. The predicted rain and mud should not however deter the hoards of fans who line the rally's route, even high up in the mountains.
Over one million spectators watched the event last year, despite the snow and freezing temperatures.
This year the service park moves from Villa Carlos Paz to Cordoba, just opposite the football stadium built for the 1978 World Cup Finals. On Thursday and Sunday nights the stadium will host a new Superspecial where crews will run side-by-side through a specially-built 2.2km stage. After two loops through the circuit on Thursday, the true rallying starts on Friday at 0833hrs. Leg one is run to the north of Cordoba and features the longest stage of the event between the towns of Ascochinga and La Cumbre. The finish is scheduled for 1330hrs in the Cordoba stadium.
This year the Subaru World Rally Team will enter two Impreza WRC2006 cars in Rally Argentina. Petter Solberg (co-driven by Phil Mills) will drive one Impreza and Chris Atkinson (co-driven by Glenn Macneall) the second.
Petter Solberg enters his seventh Rally Argentina in 2006. Last year, Petter had a trouble-free run to third overall. Chris Atkinson contests Rally Argentina for the second time. In 2005 the Australian enjoyed a successful debut to finish ninth.
The Subaru World Rally Team has won Rally Argentina twice; in 1999 with Juha Kankkunen and again the following year with Richard Burns.
“There will not be any excuses in Argentina. There won't be any sitting back for anyone and I'm going to go for maximum attack from the start. There's no strategy for this event other than this – we know what our goal is and we're going to go flat out to get there.”
“We had a good Rally Argentina last year. Behind Japan and Australia, it was probably our best gravel event. We started well and then built up speed throughout the three days. We've had a good couple of rallies in Spain and Corsica where we were consistent, but now we want to fight for position. We're aiming to be competitive and get in the top five. If we can hit this target, there's no reason why we should stop there.”
Press release Subaru World Rally Team