20 degrees, glorious sunshine and bright blue sky: the Argentinean capital Buenos Aires was the venue for the start of the MINI Challenge Argentina this weekend. Excellent weather made for ideal race conditions for the opening round of the exciting clubsport series. Right from the word go, the organisers got the crowds around the former Formula One circuit at the "Autódromo Hermanos Oscar y Alfredo Galvez" fired up with a lifestyle hospitality offering that spanned several hundred square metres and featured a DJ in the pit area.
This was followed by some red-hot racing out on the track. After two early practice sessions and the qualifying on Saturday afternoon, it was time to go racing. In the heat of the battle, several MINI John Cooper Works Challenge cars took a trip into the gravel beds. After a Safety Car phase, the fans attention soon turned to the trio of Patricio Morelli, Richard Milene Stuart and Matías Gasparich. Patricio was embroiled in a thrilling duel with Richard, eventually coming out on top to win the opening race. Matías, who finished runner-up in the championship last year, was happy to start the new season with a third place.
The roar of the engines from the MINI Challenge cars has barely stopped ringing around Buenos Aires, and already it is time for the next spectacle: the Rally Argentina, which gets underway on Thursday a few hundred kilometres north-west of the capital. The event is the only round of the World Rally Championship to be held in South America this year. The Rally Argentina always means a fiesta for the sport-mad Argentinean fans. Many line the route days in advance and do not leave until well after the rally has ended. Once the rally gets started, the fans are renowned for showing their South American passion as they furiously cheer on the drivers.
The rally is a real adrenalin kick for all those involved. The drivers must be on top of their game, as the fifth round of the 2012 WRC calendar is a really tough test. The Super Special Stage, which opens the rally on Thursday evening, is followed by a further 18 special stages, which are held on gravel. With almost 503 timed kilometres, the Rally Argentina is the longest race to feature in the World Championship since the 2002 Safari Rally. Friday features two mighty 51.88-kilometre special stages. The longest stage of all kicks off the final day of the rally. Sunday opens with the 65.74-kilometre Stage 14 – a real marathon, which requires full concentration in order to avoid making any mistakes.
MINI fans at the Rally Argentina will once again be in for a treat. Armindo Araujo of WRC Team MINI Portugal will be entering unchartered waters in his MINI John Cooper Works WRC in Argentina, and will be looking to rejoin the battle at the top of the field following his 15th place in Portugal. His team-mate, Brazilian Paulo Nobre, is looking forward to the support of the fans from his country's neighbours. "Argentina is one of the most difficult rallies of the season, and the route is lined by one of the largest number of fans," says Paulo. The Brazilian flag will, as always, be waving proudly on his green MINI WRC.
Another driver who can count on the support of the local fans is Eliseo Salazar. The 57-year-old, former Formula One and Indy Car driver from neighbouring Chile, whose career also includes starts at the Rally Dakar and Le Mans 24 Hours, will be making his WRC debut. He will line up in a MINI John Cooper Works WRC, run by Prodrive. Eliseo test drove the MINI WRC in the run-up to the Rally Portugal, and clearly felt at home in his new company car.
Argentina has been, and remains the centre of the MINI Motorsport world at the moment. From Thursday, fans around the world will once again be able to find the latest updates on all the teams in the MINI WRC at the Rally Argentina at www.twitter.com/MINImotorsport.
After a difficult start to the second day of the Rally Spain, Dani Sordo delivers a spectacular show for his fans with the MINI WRC.
The MINI Motorsport family is large and embraces the whole world. Find out more about the MINI Stars worldwide.
On the first day in Spain all teams fought off difficult weather conditions and challenging stages. While virtually every stage was marked by retirements, one MINI WRC driver kept his nerve.
Ultimate cornering, breathtaking acceleration.
Qualifying stage, autograph session, media conference, starting order draw and ceremonial start: The preliminaries for the Rallye Spain are over; all five MINI WRC Crews are raring to start the WRC finale.
A car built for victory. The MINI John Cooper Works Challenge races across the track at 240 km/h.
Experience MINI John Cooper Works.