The event, which runs from 26-29 April, is characterised by its jumps, river crossings and the lunar landscape of the high altitude El Condor stage, not to mention the tens of thousands of fans who line the route, and who are considered some of the most enthusiastic on the planet.
Although they are flowing in nature, the stages in Argentina are renowned for being slightly slower but more technically demanding than some of the other tests drivers experience in the WRC.
The surface is also 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.
Argentina’s Southern Hemisphere location means the rally will take place in early autumn, which will increase the challenge facing the crews as they negotiate the testing terrain in potentially colder and wetter conditions. However, the freezing mornings experienced during the event in 2011 are unlikely to be such a factor in 2012 as the event is running one month earlier than last season. Indeed, sunshine and warm temperatures have been experienced around the rally route in recent weeks.
Organisers had considered including stages in neighbouring Chile and Uruguay this year but while those plans have been dropped for now, the focus nevertheless is very much on endurance. As well as the demanding competitive route of 503 kilometres over 19 stages - the longest in the WRC since the Safari Rally in 2002 and significantly longer than the WRC average of 350 kilometres - the event will feature the 66-kilometre Matadero-Ambul stage on the final morning, while Friday’s itinerary includes two runs over the Ascochinga-Agua de Oro test, which has been increased to 52 kilometres in length.
Other changes for this year include the return of classics such as La Pampa-La Pampa and a new venue for the traditional superspecial stage in Villa Carlos Paz, the rally’s host town.
Villa Carlos Paz is located 700 kilometres north of the Argentine capital Buenos Aires and lies on the banks of the spectacular San Roque Lake in the south of the Punilla Valley close to the city of Cordoba.
Argentina has hosted a round of the WRC since 1980 and celebrates its 32nd edition in 2012, when it counts as round five of the main WRC and the third event of the Production Car world championship season.
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