Leading World Rally Championship drivers have warned that some stages of XION Rally Argentina (23 - 26 April) will push their cars to breaking point.
The gravel rally is known to be one of the toughest of the season, but this year the challenge has been made more intense by heavy rains and flooding that devastated the region in February.
In many places the event’s characteristic sandy road surface has been washed away to reveal sharp stones and rocks, while other sections have been badly damaged. Earlier this week organisers cut 14km from Saturday’s test from San Marcos to Characato because thick mud left it impassable.
“It’s as bad as I’ve seen in a long time.” DS 3 driver Kris Meeke told wrc.com. “Now that we don’t have Greece in the championship this is by far the roughest rally we have. It is exceptional in some places.”
“They’ve tried to repair the roads as much as they can but it’s still very difficult. There is bedrock, huge rocks and the road has washed away right and left, creating holes and dips.”
Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala singled out Friday’s opening stage, the 51.99km Agua de Oro - Ascochinga, as the worst of the lot. “The first 23km are very rough - that’s going to be the big challenge,” he said. “It’s quite technical, so the speed won’t be high, but you’ll have to use your head. Saturday’s San Marcos - Characato also has some nasty holes and water crossings I expect to cause problems.”
“It is getting rougher and rougher every year,” added Hyundai i20 driver Thierry Neuville. ”It’s a very demanding rally for the car. This year there are more than 30 water splashes - more than double the number last year. El Condor is very bumpy indeed, they’ve had to repair the roads but they are still in quite a poor state. That’s going to be a big, big challenge for the final stage.”