Ford rally car leads the party at Rally Argentina's fiesta weekend

Ford's Fiesta RS World Rally Car has a VIP invitation to one of Argentina's biggest fiesta occasions next weekend. More than a million fanatical Latin Americans will flock into the pampas to watch Rally Argentina (26 - 29 May), and Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team's challenger for the 2011...

Ford rally car leads the party at Rally Argentina's fiesta weekend

Ford rally car leads the party at Rally Argentina's fiesta weekend

Ford's Fiesta RS World Rally Car has a VIP invitation to one of Argentina 's biggest fiesta occasions next weekend.  More than a million fanatical Latin Americans will flock into the pampas to watch Rally Argentina (26 - 29 May), and Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team's challenger for the 2011 FIA World Rally Championship will be one of the star guests at the party.    


The rally is traditionally one of the classic gravel fixtures in the championship, but the performance of the Fiesta RS WRC on asphalt will play a key part in this season's encounter.  After a year's absence, the event returns to the series as a mixed surface event, offering the first opportunity for the car to show its sealed surface abilities. 


The opening five rounds of this year's championship were held on either gravel or snow.  While Rally Argentina retains its famous dirt speed tests in Cordoba province, nearly 700 km north-west of Buenos Aires , almost a fifth of the event's competitive distance is asphalt. 


To add an extra challenge to drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen and team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila, the asphalt must be tackled with their Fiesta RS WRCs in loose-surface specification and using Michelin's gravel tyres. 


The team's journey from Europe across the Atlantic Ocean is a long one, but the atmosphere surrounding the event makes Rally Argentina a firm favourite.  In a country where the tango mirrors the passion for life, the atmosphere crackles roadside in the special stages as the fans pour into the three different valleys of the province. 


The scenery is stunning too, ranging from huge expanses of open plain north of the rally base in Carlos Paz, to the Traslasierra mountains further west where rocky ribbons of road wind through a dramatic moonlike landscape.  The characteristics of the stages vary considerably in each valley, although the gravel roads are generally soft and sandy with many river crossings, and frequently become rutted during the second pass.


The new-look format will transform the classic El Condor stage into a mixed surface test for the first time and both Hirvonen, who lies second in the drivers' standings, and Latvala have prepared well for the challenge.  Each tested for half a day last month in Sardinia on asphalt roads, with their cars in gravel specification to simulate what they will encounter in Argentina .


"The mixed surface stages will be hard for the tyres," said Hirvonen.  "El Condor's gravel is tough to drive because it's narrow, twisty and rocky.  This year the stage switches to asphalt which is wide and smooth, so I'll have to instantly change my approach.  The car felt really good on asphalt in testing.  It's the first time for the new-generation cars on that surface in competition, so it will be new for us all.


"There is a little bit of everything in this rally – gravel, asphalt, river crossings, long stages.  May is late-autumn in Argentina and we can't be sure how the weather will be.  It could be warm and dry, which will make conditions tough for soft compound tyres, or it could be wet and muddy, which will make the asphalt slippery.  My speed on the last round in Italy was good and I was happy with the pace of the car, so I'm confident I can reproduce that here," said the 30-year-old Finn.  


Latvala has four previous starts in Argentina to his name and the 26-year-old Finn also acknowledges that the 2011 rally will be hard.


"It's always a demanding rally over tough stages and this year there are plenty of kilometres on asphalt which we must drive on gravel tyres," he said.  "Mixed surfaces in the same stage will require a total change of mentality when the roads switch from gravel to asphalt.  It's important to be precise, to keep the driving line smooth and straight, to remember that the grip is different and the braking points won't be the same on gravel tyres as they would be on asphalt rubber.


"Friday's first leg is held on technical roads, which contrasts with the second leg which is based in fast stages and characterised by jumps and water crossings.  Then the final leg contains what is probably the longest test in the championship this season.  So it's important for a driver to adapt to the changes in rhythm each day," added Latvala.


Team News


* Michelin's new construction Latitude Cross gravel tyre will be used by the Ford Abu Dhabi drivers.  It will be available in soft compound only for the first time this season.  Teams are not allowed to hand-carve additional cuts into the tyres and each car can carry two spare wheels.


* Hirvonen and Latvala completed a four-day test this week in preparation for next month's Acropolis Rally of Greece.  Latvala completed 443km in the opening two days, based in the Peloponnese peninsula near Corinth .  Hirvonen took over for the final two days and covered 546km.


* Four other Fiesta RS WRCs are entered.  Matthew Wilson / Scott Martin and Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson are nominated by the M-Sport Stobart Ford team.  Munchi's Ford World Rally Team's Federico Villagra / Jorge Perez Companc and Monster World Rally Team's Ken Block / Alex Gelsomino complete the registered championship entries from customer teams. 


* Latvala will drive a two-litre Mk 2 Ford Escort RS as a course opening car in the POP Pankki SM-ralli in Finland on 11 June.  The sixth round of the Finnish Championship is based in Lapua and Latvala will be partnered by Asko Sairanen. 


Rally Route


Major changes have been introduced to the route, while still remaining faithful to the valleys of Cordoba province.  The single lakeside service park in Carlos Paz remains unaltered but a new super special stage on the edge of town launches the action on Thursday afternoon.  Friday's opening leg journeys south-west to the gruelling Traslasierra mountains and includes a double pass over the rocky El Condor and Giulio Césare tests, two of the most famous and toughest of the year which peak at 2195m.  The second leg is based to the south in the Calamuchita valley, before a short but demanding final leg north of Carlos Paz in the Punilla Valley .  It includes the monster 48.21km Ascochinga - Agua de Oro test, before a second pass over the super special stage and the Power Stage, where bonus points will be won by the fastest three drivers.  Drivers tackle 19 stages covering 378.15km in a route of 1457.08km.   


For more information: Contact Mark Wilford or Georgina Finney at the Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team media desk in Carlos Paz Tel: + 54 3541 435135.  Images available at


                                            RALLY ARGENTINA


26 - 29 May 2011


Thursday 26 May: Day 1 Carlos Paz - Carlos Paz


Start     Carlos Paz                                                              14.40

SS1      Super Especial Carlos Paz I           3.02km    15.05

Finish    Carlos Paz                                                             15.25



Friday 27 May: Day 1 (continued) Carlos Paz - Carlos Paz


Serv A   Carlos Paz (15 mins)                                             06.55

SS2      El Mirador / San Lorenzo I            18.23km      09.36

SS3      Mina Clavero / Giulio Cesare I      22.67km      10.08

SS4      El Condor / Cuesta Blanca I         37.32km      11.01

Serv B   Carlos Paz (30 mins)                                             12.21

SS5      El Mirador / San Lorenzo II           18.23km       15.17

SS6      Mina Clavero / Giulio Cesare II     22.67km      15.49

SS7      El Condor / Cuesta Blanca II         37.32km      16.42

Serv C   Carlos Paz (45 mins)                                             17.55

Finish    Carlos Paz                                                               18.40


Total                                                                159.46km



Saturday 28 May: Day 2 Carlos Paz - Carlos Paz


Serv D   Carlos Paz (15 mins)                                              07.28

SS8      Las Jarillas / Falda del Carmen I  21.57km       08.13

SS9      Las Bajadas / Villa del Dique I      16.57km       09.46

SS10     Amboy / Santa Monica I                20.33km       10.32

SS11     Santa Rosa / San Agustin I           21.36km      11.13

Serv E   Carlos Paz (30 mins)                                              13.08

SS12     Las Jarillas / Falda del Carmen II 21.57km     14.08

SS13     Las Bajadas / Villa del Dique II     16.57km     15.41

SS14     Amboy / Santa Monica II               20.33km       16.27

SS15     Santa Rosa / San Agustin II          21.36km      17.08

Serv F   Carlos Paz (45 mins)                                              19.06

Finish    Carlos Paz                                                                19.51


Total                                                                 159.66km



Sunday 29 May: Day 3 Carlos Paz - Carlos Paz



Serv G  Carlos Paz (15 mins)                                                06.06

SS16     Ascochinga / Agua de Oro           48.21km        08.09

SS17     Cabalango / Villa Garcia                 3.90km        10.27

SS18     Super Especial Carlos Paz II         3.02km        11.38

SS19     Cabalango / Villa Garcia                 3.90km         12.10

Serv H   Carlos Paz (10 mins)                                                12.50

Finish    Carlos Paz                                                           1    13.00


Total                                                                  59.03km

Rally total                                                        378.15km