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GP Week : Issue 150
The FIA are pushing forward with their reforms of the world rally championship, and especially their wish to re-inject the endurance factor into the sport. The Argentina Rally, the fifth round of the FIA world rally championship, sees for the second year running a major initiative inspired by the FIA’s long-term vision for the future of rallying. Last year the organisers were persuaded to include major mid-stage changes of surface, from gravel to asphalt – this year this experiment has not been repeated. The novelty this year is that this will be the longest stage distance in world championship rallying since Argentina 1996, with over 500km of stages, one of 66km, run once on the full Day 2. An extension to this endurance factor is the longer distances of stages which are to be covered on the same set of tyres. Normally the maximum stage distance between tyre changing points in 2012 is 80km. For this event it will be 100km. The rally will run on the traditional stages in the foothills of the Andes to the west of Cordoba, with gravel and often rocky stages. The elevation of the rally is the second highest after Mexico with stages going up to 2000 metres above sea level. Traditionally there are many tricky roads with often deceptive water crossings, and there is a return to one of the country’s classic motorsport roads (the road from Tanti to Taninga), being used for the first time on the rally since 1998, as part of the 66km section. There is a popular Superspecial venue on the outskirts of the host town of Villa Carlos Paz, first used last year, but the Power Stage will be a shortened version of the traditional El Condor stage. The skiing mishap for Jari-Matti Latvala led to protracted speculation as to the identity of Solberg’s teammate at Ford for Argentina, eventually resolved with Dani Sordo being released for this event by Prodrive. This move entailed a fast change of plans for the co-driver of the Mini customer driver Eliseo Salazar, who had hoped to engage Sordo’s co-driver Carlos del Barrio. Del Barrio stays with Sordo, while the Spaniard Marc Marti (Carlos Sainz’s Argentina winning co-driver in 2004) comes out of retirement for the occasion. The entry of the Chilean driver Salazar in itself has created great interest. This extraordinary motor sportsman will now have completed an incredible career- long range of activities encompassing Formula 1, Le Mans, Indianapolis, Dakar and the WRC. Atotal of 43 entries in Rally Argentina will be eligible for the world championship category, with another 17 entries eligible for the national championship category of the event, making a total of 60 cars. The line-up for the WRC category includes four Citroens, seven Fords and three Minis. As recently announced, Dani Sordo will substitute for the injured Jari-Matti Latvala at Ford, while Martin Prokop has taken over the entry and the commercial support from the DMack tyre company originally intended for Jari Ketomaa. This year the FIA have changed the regulations concerning the local Maxi Rally Car rules. Last year these cars were admitted into the Class 3 category for Group N cars, but not this year, so the three such cars will compete for the national category instead. This means that there is a disappointing turn-out of top local drivers, the only one being Marcos Ligato, who has independently entered the FIA Production Car Championship. Of the 12 drivers finally accepted into the PCWRC, all except the English girl Louise Cook have chosen this to be one of their six qualifying rounds. Argentina is forever an historic country, but in motorsport none so much as the memory of the Gran Premio, Argentina’s leading road event. 50 years ago, a mighty event which used some of the rally’s mountain roads. The 1962 event was won by Ewy Rosqvist in a works Mercedes. The thought of a lady driver succeeding in a mighty macho country came as a shock to all concerned! It seems only yesterday that the first Rally Argentina (the 1980 Codasur Rally) was held. This year’s event is the 32nd in the series, making it almost a classic of its own. This year Swedish lady driver Ramona Karlsson competes in the PCWRC category and was recently invited to meet Ewy in her apartment in Stockholm. “What a lady” , Ramona said after wards. “What incredibly inspiring and fun to meet her. It was amazing to hear her rally stories. Cars were prepared completely differently – they had no roll cages in their day. And on the rally she and her co-driver just wore a normal dress – and their helmets!” NOTE: putting things into perspective . .. The first time a world championship rally was run in Argentina (1980) it was based at the northern city of Tucuman. There were only 14 stages, and only four were shorter than the 66km stage to be used his year - with seven of more than 100km. The longest stage was 159km which took 1h22m30s for Walter Rohrl to cover in his Fiat Abarth 131. This year’s event has the longest competitive stage distance in the WRC since the Argentina Rally in 1996, when it was 516.15km and when the longest stage was 54.42km. Swedish female rally stars, past and present, have contested big-time rallying in Argentina: l to r – Ewy Rosqvist (winner, Gran Premio 1962), Ramona Karlsson, and Miriam Walfridsson. See Martin Holmes' exclusive story over the page for more on Gran Premio 1962 ... 36 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: RALLY >>> PREVIEW