Rally Argentina Always Offers a Hot Atmosphere For Fanatic Spectators
Once upon a time the Formula 1 Argentinean Grand Prix was the main international motorsport event in Argentina. Today, it’s the Rally Argentina, a part of the World Rally Championship since 1980.
Rally Argentina is a gravel rally which has its base in Cordoba Province since 1984. The narrow gravel roads over the hills and mountains sometimes go more than 2,000 meters above sea level. The Argentinean WRC round is considered as the roughest rally of the season, with a mix of stony stages, looser road surface and extremely bumpy roads. The special stage El Condor, which features several water splashes, is one of the most famous special stages in a championship.
Fantastic atmosphere and fanatic spectators
Another great thing about Rally Argentina is a fantastic atmosphere and fanatic spectators. The Argentineans, especially those in Cordoba region, have an almost religious reverence for rallying. Every year, thousands of them are watching world’s best rally drivers all over the special stages, even in the most inaccessible places.
Since its inclusion into the World Rally Championship, the Rally Argentina was out of WRC calendar just three times. The rally was not held in 1982, then it was a part of the FIA 2-Litre World Cup in 1995 and in 2010, it was a part of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. In all other editions of Rally Argentina, the best rally drivers in the world were fighting for WRC points.
Eight wins for Loeb, Citroen and Lancia as the best brands
The record-holder with eight wins at Rally Argentina is Sebastien Loeb. He won five times in a row between 2005 and 2009 and then three more times between 2011 and 2013. In all those victories, he was driving Citroens – Xsara WRC, C4 WRC or DS3 WRC.
Thanks to Loeb, Citroen is the most successful marque in Argentina but he wasn’t the only one to win in a Citroen. Carlos Sainz won in 2004 in a Citroen Xsara WRC and Kris Meeke was the winner in 2015 in a Citroen DS3 WRC. Carlos Sainz is one of three drivers with three wins, the other two are Miki Biasion and Tommi Mäkinen. Among manufacturers, Lancia has seven wins.
Röhrl was the first winner, Reutemann reached the podium
The first-ever winners of Rally Argentina as WRC round were Walter Röhrl and Christian Geistdörfer in a Fiat 131 Abarth. The rally took place in July 1980 in Tucuman Province under the name Rally Codasur. It was the 2nd Rally Codasur, the first took place a year earlier as a national non-championship event. It’s interesting that the winner of the 1st Rally Codasur was the current FIA President Jean Todt, as a navigator to Jean Guichet in a Peugeot 504.
Röhrl was the first WRC winner in Argentina ahead of Hannu Mikkola in a Mercedes-Benz 500 SLC and famous F1 driver Carlos Reutemann in a Fiat 131 Abarth. Röhrl won four rallies that year to became the world champion.
Jean Todt as a winner in 1981
Jean Todt climbed to the top podium spot again in 1981. This time, he was the winner of the Argentinean WRC round together with Guy Frequelin in a Talbot Sunbeam Lotus. They defeated two crews in Datsuns, driven by Shekhar Mehta and Jorge Recalde.
In 1982, the Argentinean rally was not held and then it was revived in 1983, with a new base in San Carlos de Bariloche. It was a time of Group B beasts and four Audi Quattros took the first four places. Hannu Mikkola was the winner, ahead of Stig Blomqvist and Michele Mouton.
Rally Argentina has its base in Cordoba Province since 1984
In 1984, the base of Rally Argentina has been moved to Cordoba and it stayed there until today. There were three Audi crews on the podium again. Stig Blomqvist was a winner, ahead of Hannu Mikkola and Jorge Recalde.
During the Group B era, Timo Salonen was the winner in a Peugeot 205 T16 in 1985 and then Miki Biasion scored his first win in a Lancia Delta S4 in 1986. In 1985, former F1 driver Carlos Reutemann was on the Rally Argentina podium for the second time in career, finishing third in a Peugeot 205 T16.
The first win for Argentinean driver in 1988
Miki Biasion was the winner again in 1987, the first years of Group A era. His victorious car was a Lancia Delta HF 4WD. Argentinean driver Jorge Recalde finished second. It was his third podium finish.
Finally, in 1988, Jorge Recalde scored his first win at his home WRC rally, driving a Lancia Delta HF Integrale. It was his first and only WRC victory in a career. Recalde was the winner of Rally Argentina one more time, in 1995, when the rally was a part of the FIA 2-Litre World Cup.
Three-time winners Miki Biasion and Tommi Mäkinen
Mikael Ericsson gave one more win to Lancia in 1989 and then, in 1990, Miki Biasion scored his third win in Argentina, driving a Lancia Delta Integrale 16V. In the following years, the winners were Carlos Sainz (1991), Didier Auriol (1992 and 1994) and Juha Kankkunen (1993).
In 1996, Tommi Mäkinen triumphed in Argentina on a way to his WRC title. He did the same in 1997 and 1998, winning both the Rally Argentina and World Rally Championship. He was driving different variants of Mitsubishi Lancer Evo.
Carlos Sainz – three wins with three different brands
In 1999, Juha Kankkunen gave the first Argentinean victory to Subaru, driving an Impreza WRC. Next year, Richards Burns has won in a Subaru. It was Colin McRae’s turn to win in Argentina in 2001, at the wheel of Ford Focus RS WRC.
Carlos Sainz clinched his second win in 2002, driving a Ford Focus. Marcus Gronholm was the winner in a Peugeot 206 WRC in 2003 and then Carlos Sainz won for the third time in 2004. This time, he was driving a Citroen Xsara WRC, taking his third win with the third different manufacturer.
An era of Sebastien Loeb started in 2005
Sebastien Loeb has won his first WRC title in 2004 but he didn’t win at Rally Argentina, finishing second behind Sainz. His reign in Argentina started in 2005 when he won in the #1 Citroen Xsara WRC. It was his victorious car once more, in 2006, and then he won three times in a Citroen C4 WRC.
In 2010, due to a rotation system in the WRC calendar, Rally Argentina was out of WRC and a part of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. Juho Hänninen took the victory in a Škoda Fabia S2000. Rally Argentina returned to the WRC calendar in 2011 and Sebastien Loeb, together with his longstanding navigator Daniel Elena, triumphed three more times from 2011 to 2013 in a Citroen DS3 WRC.
Meeke and Paddon took their maiden WRC wins in Argentina
Following Loeb’s withdrawal from WRC, some other driver managed to win at Rally Argentina in 2014. It was Jari-Matti Latvala in a Volkswagen Polo R WRC. In 2015, Kris Meeke scored his maiden WRC victory at Rally Argentina, driving a Citroen DS3 WRC.
A year later, the history was written again in Argentina when Hayden Paddon scored his first WRC win and became the first ever New Zealander to win in the World Rally Championship. He was driving a Hyundai i20 WRC. In 2017, a new generation of World Rally Cars came and Thierry Neuville gave one more win to Hyundai. In 2018, Ott Tanak triumphed in Argentina, giving the first win to Toyota since 1994.