Pirelli Scorpion tyres provide thrilling show in Argentina
As always, Rally Argentina contained two of the best known stages on the entire World Rally Championship: Giulio Cesare and El Condor, run this year on the second day of the event. After seven changes of leader on the opening day, Loeb took advantage of a better road position on the second day to move clear of the field. On the final day, the Pirelli-equipped Citroen driver was able to control his winning margin and claim his 52nd career victory ahead of his team mate Dani Sordo and Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala. Loeb's win now gives him a 19-point lead over Sordo in the drivers' championship while Citroen now extends his lead over Ford in the manufacturers' rankings to 39 points.
A particularly dry summer in Argentina meant that a number of roads were already in bad condition before the rally started, with the surface degrading considerably during the second run over the stages. The crews faced mostly dry and dusty roads on the opening day of the rally but conditions worsened over the weekend with rain coming on Saturday and forming deep ruts in the stages.
Despite the enormously varying roads and weather conditions, which ranged from less than 10 to more than 25 degrees Centigrade, the soft-compound Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyres - of the sort that will also be used in Finland and Great Britain - stood up extremely well to the challenge.
None of the leading runners reported any major problems with punctures, in spite of the notoriously sharp rocks that littered the route, enabling a four-way fight for the lead on the opening day. Pirelli's Scorpion rubber also enabled the privateer Citroen Xsara WRC of former World Rally Champion Petter Solberg to join the battle for the podium before he encountered mechanical problems.
"The grip was changing a lot, particularly on the opening day when I was running first on the road," reported Loeb. "Despite these changing conditions though, I found enough consistency from my Pirelli tyres to stay in the hunt. On the second day it was a little easier as I was further back - although I still had a couple of moments! I'm naturally very pleased to claim my fifth win in Argentina and I'd like to thank everyone - including Pirelli - who made it possible."
Argentina was also a round of the Junior World Rally Championship and Production Car World Rally Championship, which are also exclusively supplied by Pirelli. After a three-way fight the Junior category was eventually won by Suzuki driver Michal Kosciuszko, who overcame a broken steering arm on the opening day to triumph. Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah claimed the Production Car World Rally Championship category in his Subaru, ahead of local hero Marcos Ligato.
Pirelli's Motorsport Director Paul Hembery commented: "On what were some of the most difficult and mixed conditions that we will face all year, we were very pleased with both the performance and reliability of our tyres. The fantastic battle for the lead that we all enjoyed on the opening day underlines just how well the soft-compound Pirelli rubber works on a variety of different cars with different drivers. The second day in particular contained a number of very sharp rocks, yet the renowned strength of the Scorpion tyre ensured that all the leading runners got through some of the most challenging stages of the year unscathed."