Welcome to Rally Flashback, where we look at previous versions of the upcoming round of the WRC. This weekend Rally Argentina is the challenge for our drivers, a rally which has been visited since 1979. To gain knowledge about Argentina, we look back to 2002!
Rally Argentina is held in the mountainous region of Villa Carlos Paz, and that was the case in 2002 as well.The area contains a moon-like landscape with bare rocks surrounding the rocks, but also slippery forest roads with water crossings. Depending on the weather the water may be up to 30-40 cm deep, and the crews may encounter 25-30 watersplashed throughout the weekend. Fog and has also been huge challenges in this rallies. Also worth a mention is the iconic El Condor stage, which was ran on day 3 in 2002 and will run on day 3 as the Power Stage this year as well.
In 2002, as now, one manufacturer seemed dominant through the stages. With Marcus Grönholm, Richard Burns, Gilles Panizzi and Harri Rovanperä as their drivers, Peugeot had a 1-2-3 lockout on the overall championship going into this sixth round. Tommi Mäkinen and Subaru seemed to be the closest non-Peugeot challenger to the title, while Ford drivers Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae had struggled so far. McRae won this rally the year before, and could kickstart his season this year as well with a win. The young Subaru-driver Petter Solberg often showed promising pace, but had not scored too many points at this point of the season.
Day 1 saw Marcus Grönholm take the early lead, with seemingly no problems apart from a minor moment in a superspecial. Tommi Mäkinen was closest so far, while Petter Solberg struggled with a bad stomach after food poisoning. He was still fourth behind Richard Burns though, while Carlos Sainz and Freddy Loix (Hyundai) were sitting in fifth and sixth respectively.
Continuing to day 2 Grönholm lost a lot of time after a hydraulic failure, raising the hopes of Tommi Mäkinen and Richard Burns. Carlos Sainz battled Petter Solberg for the fourth place, but the Norwegian managed to hold on to his place. After pushing towards the end of the day, Mäkinen managed to pass Grönholm with 0.5 seconds. With one day to go, this rally was not decided at all! How did it end? You can watch the day 3 highlights below:
Also featured in this rally is Alister McRae and Francois Delecour in Mitsubishi, Juha Kankkunen in Hyundai, Markko Märtin in Ford, Toni Gardemeister, Kenneth Eriksson and Gabriel Pozzo in Skoda. None of the drivers from 2002 will enter this years Rally Argentina in the WRC class.
Also, after the original winner was excluded, Richard Burns were excluded as well because of a flywheel irregularity.