World Championship heads to Argentina

The SEAT team believes it has a good chance of taking its maiden World Rally Championship victory at the Argentina Rally next weekend, one of the most physically demanding on the calendar

World Championship heads to Argentina

Didier Auriol has won the event twice in his career, in 1992 and 1994, and has finished on the podium a further four times. Driving for Toyota last year, the Frenchman led the rally until ceding to the Subarus.

The event was tainted by controversy last year when winner Juha Kankunnen allegedly ignored team orders to beat his team mate Richard Burns after the pair were assured of a 1-2 victory.

Auriol and team-mate Toni Gardemeister will be keen to avoid such distractions this year as they battle for the SEAT Cordoba WRC's best result.

"I really like Argentina - the rally, the country and the people - and I always have a good feeling there," said Auriol. "The stages are always different, with some narrow and rough sections and some smooth and fast sections. For a driver it makes you work hard, and this is what I like," he added.

It is this variability that SEAT feels might work to their advantage - their Barcelona base is blessed with a wide variety of climates and terrain in the local area, and the team can use these to test extensively. The team has worked most closely on shock absorbers and on making the car more consistent.

"We plan to start Rally Argentina as fast as possible, driving flat out and setting good times for as long as possible," explained Auriol. "We have been trying to make the Cordoba more consistent, and if we can drive flat out for all three legs, then I'm sure we can achieve a good result."

Toni Gardemeister, who will compete on the event for the first time this year, confirmed that the team has been able to simulate the conditions of Argentina in their testing programme:

"The team knows the rally well," he said, "and so does Didier, so we have been testing on three types of surface - rough, fast and mixed - and at high altitude."

The team has an increasing air of confidence in its sophomore season with the Cordoba, and believes it can perform well in Argentina. Jaime Puig, the director of SEAT Sport, praised the car and the work the team had done in preparation.

"The Cordoba has always been a fast rally car, and the basic design has given us a strong base on which to develop. In recent weeks we have concentrated on improving consistency."

Argentina is a difficult rally, but we gained a lot of good data when we ran our World Rally Car there for the first time last year, and we return to South America with optimism."

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