Wednesday | 07 May 2014

Three thrillers: Rally Argentina

The WRC’s South American fixture has been the setting for plenty of passion and excitement over the years. Here are three of our favourites:

1999: Kankkunen’s last stage steal
Subaru team drivers Juha Kankkunen and Richard Burns scored a memorable 1-2 victory in the 1999 Rally Argentina, but the order in which they finished took many by surprise – especially Burns.
With a 17sec lead on the final day, Burns looked set for a win and, following team orders not to take unnecessary risks, eased his pace so that he began the final stage with a lead of 1.2sec.
But the Brit’s well-judged drive to the top of the podium came unstuck when Kankkunen disobeyed team orders calling for Burns to win and ended up beating him by 2.4sec. 
It was the 22nd and penultimate WRC victory for the wily Finn, and prompted Burns’ co-driver Robert Reid to say, “Where there’s a shark, there’s a Finn.”

2002: Makinen over and out.
The 2002 Rally Argentina was a controversial affair that featured three winners, two disqualifications and one of the biggest rally crashes ever caught on camera.
The accident occurred on the penultimate stage, when Tommi Makinen was making a final push to overhaul the lead of fellow Finn, Marcus Gronholm.  Makinen’s Subaru clipped a bank on a sixth-gear section and was pitched into the air. It bounced and rolled five times before coming to rest on its side. Amazingly, Makinen and co-driver Kaj Lindstrom were able to walk away from the wrecked Impreza.
Rally winner Gronholm was later disqualified for receiving assistance from his Peugeot team when his car refused to start on Sunday morning. That handed the victory to Gronholm’s teammate Richard Burns. However he was also later disqualified for a flywheel irregularity. The final winner was Carlos Sainz.

2013: Loeb’s final victory
He hasn’t ruled out a return to the WRC of course, but in all probability Argentina 2013 will go down in history as Sebastien Loeb’s last world championship rally win.
It was the Frenchman’s 78th victory at WRC level, his last gravel outing and his eighth victory in Argentina. Loeb, then 39 years old, finished 55.0 seconds ahead of Sebastien Ogier. “It’s great emotion to win here,” he said as fans surrounded his Citroen DS3 at the end of the final stage. “It was a tough rally with complicated stages, but there was a great atmosphere and it was great to feel that all weekend."
Such was the desire from the passionate Argentine fans to see Loeb’s farewell that an estimated 80,000 people lined the final El Condor stage.