Three times Volkswagen won the Dakar Rally and three times the victorious racers were crowned as winners in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires. Now the Volkswagen team is returning to the country for Rally Argentina from 27 to 29 April to contest the fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship with Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N). More than 500 kilometres of special stages make the rally the longest WRC event in nearly ten years.
“Returning to Argentina with our team brings back fantastic memories. This is where we won the Dakar Rally with the Race Touareg in the past three years – and found many friends and fans in the process,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. “With Volkswagen being represented with its own plants in Argentina this almost feels like a home rally. The fact that the WRC round this year is particularly long should also suit us well, as thanks to its Dakar experience our squad is used to long distances and short nights. The run now is about gathering important experiences in the WRC by fielding the Fabia S2000 of the Group’s Škoda brand in order to be optimally prepared with the Polo R WRC next year.”
Long special stages challenge the drivers, team and cars
18 special stages (SS) are awaiting the drivers in Argentina. And these stages are challenging ones indeed. With a total of 502.73 timed kilometres the gravel event is the longest WRC rally since the Safari Rally in the 2002 season. Right on the first leg two special stages, each covering a distance of more than 50 kilometres, are on the agenda and on the final day SS 14, the “Matadero/Ambul” across 65.74 kilometres, even marks the longest one of the entire WRC season. Sébastien Ogier is looking forward to the challenge, commenting: “It’s the longest rally I’ve ever driven. For the drivers as well as for the mechanics, it’s likely to be a very strenuous run. You’ve got to manage your energy levels really well and the car, too, is in for an endurance test.”
The Frenchman, who finished the event in Argentina third overall last year and, as usual, is being assisted by co-driver Julien Ingrassia, knows the characteristics of the special stages. “On the one hand there are many narrow, winding sections with stones and rocks, and on the other flatter sections are awaiting us through the Pampas, which I really like from a driving perspective. A unique atmosphere prevails in the mountains and we can even catch a whiff of barbecue steaks in our rally cars.”
In the second Fabia S2000 fielded by the Volkswagen factory team in preparation for the 2013 season the Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen is making his Argentina debut. “For me, it’s important to finish and to gather as much experience as possible. Yet for me, it’s also about showing my talent and proving that I’m capable of handling such a difficult rally well. The round in Argentina is very long and it’ll be important to find a good balance between speed and safety in order to keep from overtaxing the car. Fitness, too, will play a role. Even the preparation of the notes prior to the rally across this long distance demands the driver’s and the co-driver’s full concentration.”
This season, Volkswagen is contesting WRC rounds in the smaller S2000 class with two Fabia S2000 cars of the Group’s Škoda brand. The runs serve as preparation for the 2013 season when Volkswagen will compete in the top class of rallying with the Polo R WRC.