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GP Week : Issue 42
>>WRCINSIGHT Thanks for the memories: Martin Holmes has met many friendly locals during his years in Argentina, both of the human and animal variety, left. Carlos Reutemann cut his teeth on the rally roads, pictured above in 1980, while Guy Frequelin and Jean Todt set the pace in 1981, right. not go to Baires we have made new friends in Cordoba. Everyone working at the event is equally friendly. Rally secretary Carla Fiore will break off whatever she is doing when you ring her. One hint to former press chief Laura Cerezo and she raised heaven and earth to answer your question. And there is a traditional and heartfelt display of affection when the Temperini sisters suddenly notice you have arrived. They run the Las Lajas Hotel in Villa Carlos Paz, where we stay every year. Villa who? Carlos Nicandro Paz was a rancher who established the lakeside town near Cordoba when he decided this was a nice place to live 95 years ago. He chose where to settle well. So did the rally. Historical motorsport memories are everywhere in the land. At a communal mid-rally lunch during the 1980 rally my colleague Hugh Bishop and I asked the organisers to give Juan Manuel Fangio, the guest of honour, a copy of our annual book. Later on we were ordered to leave our half-finished food. The great man had asked us to meet him and to autograph the book for him. I thought it was the wine talking, but he had really insisted ... He has now died, and so has his rally driver protege Jorge Recalde. I first met Jorge when he came to Portugal in 1980. He came from somewhere called Mina Clavero, far away over the other side of the mountains from Cordoba. There was no sign of it in the Atlas. Over the years we came to know Mina Clavero and his family well. It was a shock when Jorge, who did much to honour Argentina through rallying round the world, died of a heart attack. He had been pushing his broken down rally car – on a rally a few hundred metres from his home. Roads used as special stages often featured on the city-to- city races on which drivers like Fangio battled in their flared fender American sedans at incredible speed. Even racing drivers within living memory like Carlos Alberto Reutemann cut their competition teeth on roads such as these. Things happen in Argentine motorsport you could scarcely believe. One of my final motorsport events of the last millennium was the 1999 Rally Masters promotional event at the Pro Racing circuit near Villa Carlos Paz. They invited four world rally champions and hosts of other top European and South American drivers for the weekend. They provided eight Mitsubishi Lancer Evos for use in knock-out races rough the track. It rained on the day, non-stop, all day. All the cars were crashed, suffering mortal or near- mortal damage. The event had to be systematically curtailed as the available cars became progressively incapable of resurrection. Every Rally Argentina is a major achievement of organisation, all done through hard work by the organisers and the fans. Argentine people are proud people; proud of their country and of their rally. This will be my 30th trip to the country, and if I ever have to stop my work, this is the one journey that I will really miss. But don’t be angry, New Zealand or Japan or Australia or Mexico or everywhere else. I still love you, and will miss you all as well ... 41