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GP Week : Issue 42
>>WRCINSIGHT Foggy Highway: The inclement weather that hampered last year’s event is unlikely this weekend thanks to a date change. Joint PCWRC championship leaders Armindo Araujo and Patrik Sandell have nominated Argentina as one the two events they will miss, so the top drivers present in Argentina will be joint third placed Eyvind Brynildsen and Martin Prokop. There are various driver changes in PCWRC. Mark Tapper Motorsport has assigned their championship entry to Luciano Bernardi (no relation to the French driver Nicolas Bernardi), while the nominated driver for the Errani Team is Stefano Marrini. In the joint Autotek/JM Engineering entry is Autotek driver Spyros Pavlides. On this event the regular PCWRC drivers can expect a strong challenge from two veteran guest drivers; 2002 FIA Group N Cup champion Gabriel Pozzo and Marcos Ligato. Certainly Rally Argentina is expected to witness the toughest Group N battles in the 2009 World Championship, on account of the strong local entry. The national rally series in Argentina (confusingly marketed under the name ‘Rally Argentino’, and even more confusingly referred to as ‘RAC’) goes from strength to strength, with strong rivalry between Mitsubishi and Subaru teams. Many of the regular national championship drivers have World Championship experience. Rally Argentina does not qualify for this year’s national series but all of the top national drivers are expected to take part on the World Championship event with their regular cars, except Villagra. The Tango team has entered eight Mitsubishis, headed by Ligato. Top Subaru drivers have cars prepared by the Barattero team, including Pozzo and Claudio Menzi, who have entered seven. There are no Super 2000 entries on this event. T he event is based again at Villa Carlos Paz, the lakeside resort town some 35km west of the country’s second largest city Cordoba. The rally is more compact than usual on account of the decision not to use the group of stages 100km south of Cordoba, and instead to run the high altitude stages in the Traslasierra hills twice. Once again the traditional stages up to the Punilla valley north of Villa Carlos Paz feature strongly. These Traslasierra stages are some of the most historic and emotive in the championship, including the legendary Guilio Cesare and El Condor sections used twice. This year they will be the highest stages in the championship, stretching up to 2000m above sea level. These stages are traditionally rough, on account of embedded rocks which are unearthed with the passage of the cars, even more so when the stages are used twice. And historically the clouds often descend down to ground level, adding to the challenge. Despite its more compact nature, the event has retained its long distance factor (in recent years it has been the rally with the longest route in the championship, up to 50 percent longer than some world rallies), as it is only around 100km shorter than usual and is still expected to be the longest of the year. Other special changes since last year include a new shakedown location, sited immediately to the west of Villa Carlos Paz, while some stages missing in recent years have been brought back into the route, including a return to Panaholma and the two stages close to La Falda. There is one stage route completely new to the event, stages 13/17, again to the west of Villa Carlos Paz, which has been used on local rallies before. There will be no official ceremonial start as the rally will start on early Thursday evening with a superspecial held inside the Cordoba Stadium. This will feature a simplified course without a flyover bridge. Instead of the traditional figure-of-eight route, the two cars on the course at the same time will start simultaneously from different parts of the route, with three laps per run. The superspecial will be held on three separate days; the third time will be at the end of the rally, when the top 10 cars will be run in reverse order. L atest news from the rally is that Petter Solberg has been declared fit enough to drive after his recent illness, despite a tendency still to feel tired at times as he did in Portugal. Another curiously unbalanced factor about Rally Argentina concerns the weather in late autumn South America. Forecasters expect that the event will be dry with temperatures in the high 20s during the day, and not much cooler at night. The last time the event was held at this time of year was in 2006. 45