Based in the Cordoba province, the event runs from May 2 to 4 and boasts some of the most spectacular and picturesque stages on the WRC calendar, including the classic and often misty El Condor test.
This year’s Rally Argentina will be the third of only four WRC appearances by nine-time champion Loeb as he seeks new challenges elsewhere in motorsport. He is undefeated in Argentina since 2005 and it will be fascinating to see if he can go out on a high with Citroen in South America or whether fellow Frenchman Ogier will continue his recent winning ways and give VW victory in a country in which it sells more vehicles than any other manufacturer.
Ogier commented: “After three victories we obviously want to continue where we left off and, ideally, defend our lead in the championship until the end of the season. For now, however, we would be happy with another podium in Argentina. I am looking forward to the duel with Sebastien Loeb. We had a great battle in Sweden and it will be anything but easy again here. However, my main focus is on my rivals in the World Championship.”
For the record, so far in 2013 it is 1-1 between Loeb and Ogier after they took turns to lead home one another in first Monte Carlo and then Sweden. After Argentina only one showdown between them will remain, in their home event in France…
There is of course the possibility that neither will win in Argentina. In Portugal two weeks ago M-Sport Ford driver Mads Ostberg and Citroen’s Dani Sordo threatened to break Ogier’s winning streak before accidents ruled them out of contention. Spaniard Sordo was also hugely impressive in Argentina twelve months ago when he was cruelly denied a third place finish with just two of the event’s stages to go.
Sordo was deputising at Ford in that rally for Jari-Matti Latvala, who had to miss the event after a skiing accident. Returning in 2013, Latvala is coming off the back of a breakthrough maiden podium result with VW in Portugal, where he finished third. And with the Finn receiving a recent tweak to his Polo’s transmission, the car should be more suited to his driving style when he arrives in South America.
Fellow countryman Mikko Hirvonen, second in the drivers’ standings with Citroen, will also be hoping to close the gap in both pace and points to Ogier but it is not yet clear if Loeb will want to take the win himself or try and play a tactical game to enhance the prospects of full-time Citroen drivers Hirvonen and Sordo. In fact Citroen is going for its eighth consecutive win in Argentina, its first being achieved in 2004 by Carlos Sainz – now an advisor to the rival VW team.
Click here for the latest WRC points standings after the first four of 2013’s 13 events.