THE RALLY ARGENTINA NOTEBOOK & CITROËN SECRETS
THE RALLY ARGENTINA NOTEBOOK
BY… JULIEN INGRASSIA
39th Rally Argentina (25-28 April) – Story
The French co-driver, who will be making his tenth appearance at Rally Argentina alongside Sébastien Ogier, answered some of our questions about his relationship with the country, its rally and the party atmosphere on the stages.
What is your most memorable experience at this round?
“It probably isn’t a sporting memory, insofar as we’ve never won here. So it’s difficult for me to single out one year in particular, because there’s always something that still rankles! Of course, 2011 is a good memory now, when we were really fast on only our second appearance, but I would say that my most memorable experience here was our first visit to Argentina when we sampled the very special atmosphere on the El Condor stage. Obviously, there are a lot of other stages during the year where there are big crowds, but it’s not quite on the same scale and those stages are usually near to a town or city. On El Condor, you’re 2,000 metres above sea level, almost in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by moonlike, desert landscapes. It’s something else.”
Do you have time during the race to be aware of the huge, passionate crowds?
“During the stages, it’s always difficult for the co-driver to really take in what’s happening around us. Since El Condor has been contested uphill, you have a bit of time to look up at what is going on. But the unmistakeable smell of the barbecues, the famous asado, infiltrates the cabin and into our nostrils regardless! As the road section that leads to this stage is not difficult for the co-drivers, we also get an opportunity to see the tens and tens of kilometres of cars parked by the side of the road.”
Is El Condor therefore your favourite stage?
“No, in fact it’s not! Even less so Mina Clavero – Giulio Cesare, which is held very nearby. It’s so rough and the ground breaks up so much, it’s a bit of a lottery. There is always a huge risk of finding a large rock in the middle of the road. If that happens, you can easily pick up a puncture or worse still, lose a wheel.”
Have you had the chance to sample the local culture over the years?
“The first few times, I always arrived a little bit ahead of schedule in order to take the time to check everything, which enabled me to have a look around, because that’s also an important part of rallying for me. Unfortunately, I’ve never taken any holidays here but one day, I would like to visit Patagonia. I did come to the 2015 Dakar as a spectator, which means I know a few good places.”
Which restaurant would you recommend in Villa Carlos Paz, the hub of the rally?
“Specialists of ‘bife de chorizo’ undoubtedly know about even better places than me, but I went to La Volanta a few years back and I thought it was a good spot to soak up the atmosphere and feel the passion of the Argentinians for rallying, with all these posters, caps and photos adorning the walls.”
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia produced an impressive performance at Rally Argentina in 2011 on only their second appearance at the event, the French duo holding a clear lead until their inexperience caught up with them on the final leg. Didier Clément, the crew’s race engineer at the time, and now Citroën’s Technical and Sporting Coordinator, recalls…
“The roads in Argentina are fairly unusual, with a lot of embedded rocks, but sometimes tackled at very high speeds and generally speaking, you really need a lot of experience to do well at this rally. Back in 2011, Seb was just 27 years old and had only competed in Argentina once before, where he finished a modest seventh overall in 2009 with the C4 WRC. He was up against a host of seasoned campaigners that year, such as Loeb, Solberg, Hirvonen and Latvala. Right up until Sunday morning, he had blown everyone away with his maturity and control, producing an incredibly consistent performance with three stage wins and his poorest result being a fifth fastest time. He had the race pretty much sewn up going into Sunday’s leg. But in the final kilometre of the final day’s only real stage, Aschochinga – Aqua de Oro, a beast at just over 48 kilometres, he turned slightly too early into a corner and rolled the car. He had to complete the remaining three stages with no power steering or rear spoiler. As a result, he ended up finishing down in third position, but not without having made quite an impression.”
media.citroenracing.com Photo credit: © @World
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