Round five of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship takes place in Argentina this weekend with the series returning to gravel after the Tour de Corse last time out.
New championship leader Thierry Neuville will be the first driver on the road on Thursday evening following his dramatic win in Corsica after Elfyn Evans was denied his second WRC victory with a heart-breaking final stage puncture.
Neuville as a result leads the Drivers Standings by two points from championship rival Sébastien Ogier with Ott Tänak three points further adrift in third going into the first of a double header in South America with the new event in Chile set to take place in a fortnights time.
This weekend sees a total of 18 stages with the action getting underway with a blast around the rally base city of Villa Carlos Paz on Thursday evening, before the crews tackle Friday’s seven stages; two loops of three stages almost identical to last year which are split by a short test around a theme park on the outside of the city.
Saturday is also similar to last year’s route which includes the longest stage of the event – the 33.65km Cuchilla Nevada – Characato test before Sunday’s final three stages which this season includes both the spectacular Copina – El Cóndor and a reversed version of Mina Clavero before the rally concluding Wolf Power Stage.
Winner here last season Tänak has to go to Argentina as one of the favourites for the victory because of his lower road position compared to both Neuville and Ogier, although several other drivers could still be up at the sharp end in South America.
None more so than Dani Sordo, who continues his part-time campaign at Hyundai this weekend. The Spaniard, despite often being thought of more of a tarmac specialist, finished on the podium here last year and again because of taking advantage of a lower starting position, could potentially be on for another strong result in 2019.
One man keen to make up for Corsica will be M-Sport Ford’s Evans who was cruelly stopped from winning last time out. Despite salvaging third, the Welshman will be wanting to prove he has the pace to compete for the win on every event while teammate Teemu Suninen finished a solid fifth on the tarmac in Corsica and will be wanting to build on that this weekend as he continues to try and make amends for his crash in Mexico.
Andreas Mikkelsen returns to Hyundai after being dropped for Corsica in favour of Sordo and Sebastien Loeb and will be on a mission to show the Korean manufacturer what they’ve missed, while Jari-Matti Latvala will be looking to kick start his season at Toyota after only having a best finish of fifth so far in 2019 back on Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Kris Meeke, currently fifth in the championship standings, has a had a consistent start to the year and will again be aiming for a solid haul of points in his first season with Toyota while Esapekka Lappi will be wanting to put a frustrating Corsica behind him in the second Citroen C3.
WRC2/WRC2 PRO – Three Way Battle in WRC2 PRO
Gus Greensmith, Mads Østberg and Marco Bulacia Wilkinson headline the R5 contingent in South America this weekend with all three drivers in with a chance of taking the WRC2 PRO win.
Greensmith returns to the WRC for his first appearance since Rally Sweden, with the British driver also set to compete on the second South American event in Chile in two weeks’ time while Østberg makes his second PRO entry after recently competing in New Zealand on the Rally of Otago in a Ford Escort MK2. Wilkinson enters with Skoda after taking second in the class on Rally Mexico earlier this season.
WRC2 sees six entries with Heller brothers Pedro and Alberto being joined by Paulo Nobre, Toyota development driver Takamoto Katsuta, European Rally Championship graduate Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Mexican driver Beniot Guerra Jr. this weekend.
Rally Argentina gets underway tomorrow evening and continues throughout this weekend.