The weather plays a big part in defining the character of each WRC round in Argentina, and after an unusually wet summer this year's route features plenty of pitfalls to keep drivers on their toes.
We got an early view of the stages on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, when we joined the WRC TV crews for a camera location recce. Here's what we found:
With so much rain in the last few weeks it's no surprise that we saw a lot of mud on the roads. We saw most on Friday's Soconcho - Villa Del Dique stage (SS2/SS6). Over the 24km distance we counted four slippery mudholes - like the one below - and seven watersplashes. As well as the likelihood of slithering off in these wet sections, drivers can expect the surface to deteriorate before the second pass - bringing rocks and stones to the surface.
YPF Rally Argentina is famed for its watersplashes but some years these river crossings are barely more than a puddle. This year they are in full flow. Pictured below is one of the event's most photographed watersplashes, located 650 metres into Friday's Santa Rosa - San Agustin (SS4/SS8). This is one of nine in the stage - four of which cross the same winding river. Driven through slowly, the water depth of about 15 - 20cm is no problem. Hit at speed, however, and the deflected water can wreak havoc.
Another feature of Argentina's route are these concrete culverts which allow water to flow over gravel tracks without washing the surface away. They tend to be fairly shallow and smooth, so most will be driven flat-out. Saturday's third stage, Boca Del Arroyo - Bajo Del Pungo (SS12/15), has more than any other. The section shown below is at the 3km point. It is part of a sequence of nine culverts between 2.4km and 5km.
4: Sand and Bedrock
Many of Argentina's stages are sandy and soft. Saturday's Los Gigantes - Cantera El Condor (SS11/14) is a great example: the picture below shows part of the 15km opening section that is almost like a beach. This surface will quickly become rutted as drivers follow the lines left by the cars ahead. The loose surface is also susceptible to water damage and in some places the sand has been completely rinsed away, exposing bed rock and huge buried boulders. We took the main (top) picture 15km into Sunday's Mina Clavero - Giulio Cesare (SS17), which was the roughest test we found on the recce.
5: High speed blasts
From the pictures so far you could be forgiven for thinking that Argentina is slow rally. In fact it's one of the championship's fastest, thanks to the number of flat-out kilometres through open moorland and plains. Pictured below is a typical view from Saturday's opening Villa Bustos - Tanti (SS10/SS13). It's a 19km stage and the opening 12km are almost completely flat-out.
All pictures: Julian Porter