Leading drivers believe this weekend’s Rally Argentina will be the roughest they have faced after heavy rain left the gravel roads littered with loose rocks and drainage channels.
Downpours in February and March mean the roads are softer than usual and have also exposed many large rocks. Each leg comprises two morning stages that are repeated in the afternoon, and it is the second pass that drivers fear most.
“It’s not rough like the Acropolis Rally, it’s a different kind of rough,” said Mikko Hirvonen. “The Acropolis has bed rock all the way through, but there are lots of ground stones here.
“Even in the recce there were more loose rocks lying in the road than usual. It’s maybe the roughest Argentina I can remember, and we’ll need to avoid punctures,” he added.
To allow the rain to drain through the sandy surface, channels were dug across the roads. These have not been filled, leaving small ditches at which the drivers must slow to avoid damaging their cars.
“They are very sharp and hard for the car so you have to brake a lot for those places,” explained Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala. “I came here for the first time in 2005 and there were rough stages then, but now it’s even worse. We have to consider the places where these holes and the rocks are and not push too much there.”
Mads Østberg said tomorrow’s opening Santa Catalina / La Pampa stage was worst affected by the drainage channels.
“There are sections where the rain has destroyed the road and made a river, but they are empty now so there’s a massive dip. It’s quite tricky to know what to do and how to judge them. I think it will be hard for the cars and it will be rough for the second pass,” said the Citroen pilot.