Thursday | 01 May 2014

The challenge: Rally Argentina

If ever there was a rally that features every kind of challenge imaginable, it is Rally Argentina.

Run in the province of Cordoba, Rally Argentina is considered the ultimate test of man and machine. The crew that wins in Argentina will need to overcome the following challenges:

Water splashes
Rally Argentina has more water splashes than any other event on the WRC calendar and they’re considered the stuff of legend.

If there is rain before the start of the event, the rivers are likely to be swollen so the crews will need to exercise caution as they pass through the water.

If they go too fast and their car ingests a large amount of water, it will stop. Immediately.

Unusual obstacles
The El Condor and Mina Clavero stages are littered with ancient iron bridges that pass over deep canyons underneath.

The entry and exit points on the bridges are extremely narrow and the wooden slats that the cars will drive across offer very little in the way of grip.

Precision will be vital. And that won’t be easy if visibility is poor. Early autumn weather in the southern hemisphere often leads to dense fog in the mountains.

Mixed road conditions
The 14 stages that make up this year’s Rally Argentina route are a mix of smooth gravel roads that are typical of Argentina’s ‘pampa’ (vast lowland plains), and the rough, rock-strewn roads in the mountains.

Many of the gravel roads have a soft, sandy base and become heavily rutted for repeat passes. Moving out of the ‘rails’ here can pitch a car off the road.

Tyres will take a real pounding on the stages with a firmer base, and with the longest stage measuring a whopping 51.88km in length, the choice of hard of soft compound tyres will be key.

World Rally Cars need air – and plenty of it – to perform at their best.

But, as is the case with Rally Mexico, the air on the highest stages in Argentina is at a premium. The iconic El Condor stage, for example, starts from an altitude of 7,000 ft above sea level.

That’s a long way up and that means the power generated by the 1.6-litre, turbocharged World Rally Car engines will be hugely compromised.

The fans
The Argentine fans will have camped out for anything up to three days in order to get a good vantage point on their favourite stage, so by the time the WRC stars arrive in competitive anger, the excitement on the side of the stages will have reached fever pitch.

The WRC crews will need to be careful they don’t get distracted by the passionate show of noise and colour that is synonymous with Rally Argentina. If they do, they’re likely to face an early retirement.

Follow all the action from Rally Argentina live on from 8 May – 11 May.