Wilks aims for victory in Argentina

Wilks aims for victory in ArgentinaFrom Skoda Press [ 17/03/2010 ].
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Rally Argentina’s challenging gravel special stages are made famous by the unusually high number of river crossings that have to be negotiated, and Guy Wilks hopes to be walking on water when he attacks those watersplashes flat-out in his Škoda UK Motorsport Fabia S2000, in his quest for victory on Round 3 of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (19-21 March).

Guy and co-driver Phil Pugh have contested the event once before, winning the FIA Junior World Rally Championship category there in 2006. They remember the stages well, but the loose road surface in such a wet region can change in character so much over four years, that previous experience may not give them the advantage they might have otherwise enjoyed.

Based in the town of Villa Carlos Paz – a popular holiday destination for Argentineans, on the shores of San Roque Lake in the province of Córdoba, around 435 miles (700kms) northwest of Buenos Aires – Guy is aiming to do well on Rally Argentina and return from his epic South American adventure with as many points as possible, having already finished 2nd on his first appearance on Rally Brazil (4-6 March).

Since Rally Brazil, Guy and Phil and the rest of the Škoda UK Motorsport team have stayed in South America, training together in the 32°C heat of Rio de Janeiro before flying to Carlos Paz for a pre-event test and recce.

Rally Argentina sees a very high quality entry. Guy, who is currently second in the IRC drivers’ table, will be up against his regular IRC rivals Kris Meeke and Bruno Magalhães and his Škoda Motorsport stable-mates Juho Hänninen (current leader of the IRC) and Jan Kopecký, plus Nasser Al-Attiyah (six-time Middle East Rally Champion and 2010 Dakar Rally winner from Qatar), who is also driving a privately-run Fabia S2000.

Rally Argentina will also count for the Argentine and South American Rally Championships and is part of the country’s Bicentenary celebrations.  It has therefore attracted a very strong local entry, led by seven-time Argentine Rally Champion Federico Villagra, plus Marcos Ligato and Gabriel Pozzo.

In addition to scoring top points and helping Škoda maintain its lead in the IRC manufacturers’ standings, Guy would love to give the Škoda Fabia S2000 a rally win, so close to the brand unveiling the exciting Fabia vRS at the Geneva Motor Show. With an impressive 180bhp coming from its double-supercharged, four-cylinder 1.4 litre petrol engine, the road car is every bit as exciting to drive as the rally car.

Guy Wilks: “I’ve competed Rally Argentina once before, but in rallying terms, 2006 is a long time ago.  Whilst I can remember the stages quite well, the conditions might have changed a lot.  We’re going to go to a stage that’s not being used this year but was in 2006, to check our pace notes and see exactly what the situation is.

“In any case, the Škoda Fabia S2000 we’ll be driving this year is an awful lot quicker than the J-WRC car we competed in before, so the speeds will be significantly higher, the jumps higher and the watersplashes more hazardous, so in preparing for the event we have to take all of this into consideration.

“We want to try to win Rally Argentina. It’s never easy to win a rally, and that will be the case in Argentina because there will be a lot of high-quality opposition.  All our main IRC rivals are there and the local star drivers will be fast, but it’s certainly our aim to win.

“We had a two-rally game plan coming to South America, and part of it was to stay here between events to train in the heat. It’s a lot of work and a long time away from home, and to return to Britain with a first and a second place finish would be absolutely fantastic.

“We set ourselves very high standards and there is a lot Škoda UK Motorsport wants to achieve this year. Second in Brazil was a good result, but we really want to win one of these South American rounds, and doing that in Argentina would be very special.”

Rally Argentina will start on Friday 19 March at 17:00 with a spectacular 2.5 mile (4km) super-special stage on the streets of Villa Carlos Paz.

Leg 1 continues the following day, with six stages in the Calamuchita Valley region. Three stages in the morning are repeated in the afternoon, separated by service in Villa Carlos Paz, with the day’s competition totaling 85.45 miles (137.52kms).

Leg 2 takes place in the Punilla Valley on Sunday (21 March), with four stages in the morning and a repeat of two in the afternoon totaling 63.4 mile (102kms). The day includes the famous Ascochinga-La Cumbre stage which, at 14 miles (22.4kms), is the longest of the event.

There are 15 stages in total, equaling 150 miles (240kms). There are also 491 miles (790kms) of link road sections, which means very long days for Guy and Phil – starting at 06.00 and not finishing until well after dark each evening.

The rally will finish on Sunday afternoon with a repeat of the super-special stage in Villa Carlos Paz.

Eurosport and Eurosport 2 will broadcast recorded highlights from each day of the Rally Argentina, so please check TV listings for details.