The WRC heads to Argentina for the fifth round of the 2019 World Championship, only the second round so far on gravel after Mexico. The Citroën Total World Rally Team crews Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia and Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm will once again enjoy the huge, excitable crowds typically found in Latin America. Both crews will be determined to show the same speed they had a month and a half ago on the roads around León and maintain their run of podium finishes.
As the winners on the only gravel event held so far in 2019 in Mexico, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia find themselves back on the surface on which the majority of the championship is contested, with the firm intention of confirming their pace in the C3 WRC on dirt roads.
Ogier and Ingrassia performed at a very high level in Central America last month, with seven stage wins, including the Power Stage. It is therefore no surprise that they come into this round with high hopes, although this gravel event differs somewhat from Rally Mexico.
The French pair have finished on the podium four times in nine appearances at this rally, which rewards those who know the roads well. They will also be able to count on the experience of the Citroën Total World Rally Team, which has already won in Argentina ten times. In the past they have often been first to tackle these stages, where grip levels tend to increase as more cars complete, but this time they will be running second on the road, meaning they will enjoy slightly better grip conditions.
Meanwhile, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm will be sixth in the running order. As this is only their second appearance here, they inevitably don't have as much knowledge of this rally as their team-mates, however they will be tackling cleaner roads which may help make up for their lack of experience. In any case, the feeling at the end of the Mexican round and the stage times set in Central America suggest that the Finnish duo will be looking to confirm their growing confidence during their second gravel event in the C3 WRC.
Both Ogier / Ingrassia and Lappi / Ferm got some additional miles under their belt on this surface, as part of a four-day pre-event test held recently in Portugal, with each crew spending two days in the car.
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal: “We return to gravel hoping to show the same speed as in Mexico and continue our run of podium finishes this year. Having said that, we know just how hard the Argentinian roads can be on the cars, so we’ll be tackling this round with the attention and respect it deserves.”
“Obviously, Sébastien and Julien will be really up for it. They will be even more motivated than usual since this is the only event to appear regularly on the WRC calendar that they haven't won yet, and this time they will have the beginnings of a line to follow by being second on the road.”
“With a similar level of knowledge of the roads, Esapekka and Janne produced a promising performance in Mexico. I have high hopes they’ll be able to pick up in Argentina where they left off, especially as they have got some more miles under their belts in the C3 WRC on this surface since then.”
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver: “Although I have never won in Argentina, it’s a rally that I like and I have often been quick here in the past. So I come into this round with the same high hopes as usual. I would even go as far as to say I feel slightly more motivated by the prospect of winning this rally for the first time and with Citroën. It’s also true that being second in the running order gives me a bit more of a chance than in previous years. The type of roads used varies a lot, but I would say that what really stands out is how rough the gravel can be in places. You really do have to think about looking after your car, whilst continuing to drive quickly.”
Number of appearances at the event: 9
Best result: 2nd (2013, 2014 and 2016)
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver: “In principle, I start this rally with a bit of a disadvantage compared to many of my rivals, with only one previous appearance here. Having said that, this rally doesn't change much from one year to the next and I’ll have a good place in the running order. I’m very determined to build on my promising outing on gravel in the C3 WRC in Mexico and bring home the best possible result from Argentina. I remember that the stages here are fairly nice, but you have to watch out for the countless embedded rocks, because they pose a real risk in terms of punctures.”
Number of appearances at the event: 1
Best result: 8th (2018)
2019 RALLY ARGENTINA KEY FIGURES
18 timed stages covering a total of 347.50km
43.8kph – the difference between the maximum (116.4kph) and minimum (72.6kph) average speed recorded on the ‘proper’ stages of last year’s event
10 overall wins secured by Citroën at Rally Argentina: 3 with Xsara WRC (2004, 2005 and 2006), 3 with C4 WRC (2007, 2008 and 2009), and 4 with DS3 WRC (2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015).
RALLY ARGENTINA SCHEDULE (GMT-3)
Very similar to last year’s rally, the 2019 route differs only with small changes over a few kilometres on some of the stages and with the penultimate test being held in the opposite direction, climbing from Mina Clavero up to Giulio Cesare, as was the case in 2017.
These minor changes to the itinerary do not mean that an easy task lies ahead for the crews and teams. The rally features two huge legs on Friday and Saturday, with competitive distances of 145.92km and 146.52km.
Rally Argentina is always very hard on the cars, given the rough gravel and the many water splashes encountered, but it is contested on a wide variety of roads. Quick roads (average speeds of over 115kph) littered with embedded rocks, tackled in particular on day one around Santa Rosa de Calamuchita, are followed by other much slower (with average speeds of around 75kph) and narrower sections. Additionally, Sunday’s leg between El Condor and Giulio Cesare contains extremely bumpy roads and altitudes of just over 2,000 metres above sea level, which are invariably hard on the engines.