The World Rally Championship is making its annual visit to South America with YPF Rally Argentina starting on tomorrow morning (NZ time).
Based at the lakeside resort of Villa Carlos Paz — about 30 minutes from Cordoba — the 2016 edition of Rally Argentina will challenge competitors with 18 special stages and 364.68km of high speed competition.
Cool autumn weather combined with rock strewn mountain roads and multiple stream crossings are among the challenges of rallying in the region. A relatively small field will contest the rally with 36 entries confirmed.
Argentina looms as an event with some historic significance for world champions Volkswagen Motorsport.
Volkswagen is looking to stretch its WRC winning streak to 13 rallies in Argentina this weekend. Picture/ VOLKSWAGEN MOTORSPORT
The victory by Citroen’s Kris Meeke in Argentina last year stands as the last time the German marque was defeated — a victory this weekend will give the team a streak of 13-consecutive wins and a unbeaten run through a full rotation of the WRC calendar.
It’s a familiar line-up at the front of the field with Volkswagen Motorsport’s usual three-car squad of world champion Sebastien Ogier (France) along with Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) and Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway).
New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon and John Kennard will compete in the number 20 Hyundai Motorsport N entry while team-mates Dani Sordo (Spain) and Thierry Neuville (Belgium) are Hyundai’s nominated Manufacturers’ Championship entries for Argentina.
That will change next month when the series moves to its first European gravel event and Hyundai’s rotation policy will see Sordo and Paddon that carry team teams hopes in the Manufacturers’ title race at Rally Portugal.
The M-Sport World Rally Team Ford Fiesta entries in Argentina are Norway’s Mads Ostberg and young Frenchman Eric Camilli while private Ford Fiesta WRC s are also being run by Ott Tanak (Estonia), Henning Solberg (Norway) and Lorenzo Bertelli (Italy).
Citroen’s part-time 2016 programme doesn’t include Argentina but private DS3 WRC cars are entered for local drivers Marcos Ligato and Jose Alberto Nicolas.
Welsh driver Elfyn Evans (Ford Fiesta R5) will be the favourite in a eight-strong field of WRC2 contenders that have made the journey to Argentina. Evans leads the WRC2 standings and his challengers in Argentina include Poland’s Hubert Ptaszek (Peugeot 208) and Qatari driver Abdul Al-Kuwari (Skoda Fabia).
The rally begins with a Thursday night (local time) ceremonial start followed by a 1.5km super special stage through the streets of Cordoba. The Friday itinerary is to the south of Cordoba in the San Agustin region. There is a loop of three stages (used twice) and also two runs through the 6.04km Parque Tematico Super Special providing a total of 150km of driving against the clock.
On Saturday there are six stages including two runs through the Los Gigantes-Cantera El Condor stage, the longest of the rally at 38.68km. Sunday there are three stages west of Corboda with 55.2km of competition including the 16.52 El Condor power stage. 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (after round 3 of 14):