Round five of the FIA World Rally Championship - Philips LED Rally Argentina - is renowned for its amazing landscapes, its passionate and enthusiastic fans and for being one of the toughest events of the season to win.
The all-gravel event, which runs from 1-4 May, is characterised by its jumps, river crossings and the lunar landscape of the high altitude Mina Clavero stage.
It’s also very much about endurance, and features a string of long and demanding stages, including one of the longest of the season – the 51.88 kilometre Ascochinga-Agua de Oro.
Although they are flowing in nature, the stages in Argentina have a reputation for being slightly slower but more technically demanding than some of the other tests drivers experience in the WRC.
The road surface is quite sandy, which increases the risk of punctures due to the greater likelihood of rocks being pulled onto the road by the competing cars. Because the road surface is softer, ruts can form following the first pass.
This year’s rally features just seven special stages, each run twice. Three stages - Ascochinga-Agua de Oro, El Cóndor-Copina and the super special stage - run identically to last year, while Santa Catalina-La Pampa and Mina Clavero-Giulio Césare have length changes.
The two remaining stages - Santa Rosa-Villa del Dique and Amboy-Yacanto - are classed as new, the first the result of combining two stages run in 2011 and the second covers 30 kilometres of new road.
Rally headquarters and the central Service Park are based at Villa Carlos Paz, a holiday resort located 700 kilometres north of the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, close to the city of Cordoba.
Argentina’s Southern Hemisphere location means the rally will take place in early autumn and in its changeable weather conditions. The latest forecast is for sunshine and temperatures of up to 28 degrees Celsius, however rain showers are likely.
This year’s rally features a modified timetable compared to 2012. Organisers have taken advantage of a public holiday on Wednesday 1 May to enable the fans to watch free practice and qualifying, as well as the super special stage later that afternoon, meaning that the event finishes one day earlier than usual, on Saturday 4 May.
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