307WRC Rally Argentina preview

307WRC Rally Argentina previewFrom Peugeot Press [ 13/07/2005 ].
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After a sequence of four Mediterranean rallies, the ninth round of the 2005 calendar takes competitors to Argentina where Peugeot's two drivers know they have an excellent chance. Marcus Grönholm won this event outright in 2003, while Markko Märtin has also produced some top performances in the South American event. Both the Finn and his Estonian team-mate will be out to show off their talent this time round at the wheel of the Peugeot 307 WRC which promises to be extremely competitive over the Argentine stages.

After a series of four punishing, if relatively slow rounds based on the shores of the Mediterranean and run in essentially hot weather, the 2005 World Rally Championship enters a new phase, beginning with Rally Argentina which features radically different conditions. The weather marks a big shift to begin with, since July is the middle of winter in this part of the world and that has an effect both on the way the cars are prepared as well as on the tyres that are used. Another notable difference compared with recent outings, notably Sardinia and Cyprus, is that the South American stages are generally faster and their nature can change significantly from one test to another.

Peugeot travels to Round 9 of the championship in 2nd place in the Manufacturers' points table and will be eager to get back to its winning ways following its performance in Greece which confirmed the potential of both the 307 WRC and its driver Marcus Grönholm.

However, the failure of a minor component dropped the Finn from 2nd to 4th place on the afternoon of the second leg. "I can't hide the fact that it was a disappointing result. Until that problem, it had been our best run in performance terms since the beginning of the year," admitted Jean Pierre Nicolas after the finish. "Marcus was up there fighting with Sébastien Loeb before his problem which concerned a part that was worth probably no more than 2 Euros. But it cost us our lead in the championship as the first half of the season comes to an end. But nothing is by any means over yet. The tough rallies are behind us and we are hoping for a strong run in Argentina," says the Director of Peugeot Sport.

His opinion is shared one hundred per cent by Marcus Grönholm. The Peugeot driver has come away from his last three visits to Argentina with the highest number of stage wins under his belt and he even won the event outright in 2003. He also led before his retirement nineteen stages into last year's rally. The selective South American stages clearly suit the former World Champion. "It was disappointing not to be able to fight for victory in Greece all the way to the finish, so I will be flat out in Argentina which is an event I like very much. I hope the different weather and terrain will be favourable to us, notably on the tyre front. In any case, we have no choice. Although my points deficit in the Drivers' standings looks like it could be difficult to make up, we still have every chance in the Manufacturers' championship and that remains our objective. But we will now need to be thinking in terms of outright victory if we are to stay in the title chase."

Markko Märtin has competed in Argentina on three previous occasions, finishing 4th overall in 2002 and coming close to spoiling Marcus Grönholm's triumphant run in 2003. "After twenty stages, I was in the lead before being sidelined by a mechanical problem practically at the end of Leg 2," recalls the Estonian. "Last year, I was 2nd when I went off in SS5. That time it was driver failure! I hope I can obtain a better result in Argentina than I did in Greece. The stages should be more favourable to us because the 307 WRC is very competitive over fast stages."

With a score of 39 points to his name, Markko Märtin is currently 4th in the Drivers' classification, equal on points with Toni Gardemeister. Marcus Grönholm is 5th, two points behind.