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What to know

Next weekend, Rally Trans Itapúa will see the first proper action of national rally cars competing in Paraguay this year. The event is once again also valid for the South American Championship just like it has been several times before.

Based in the renewed town of Encarnación, the 32nd edition of the classic southern rally will see the local entries pushing hard among each other after Rally del Guairá, which should have been the season opener, had to be postponed to May and become round 2 after heavy rains and muddy roads made it impossible for that event to start last March. Interestingly, because Guairá scrutineering had already been completed in Asunción, the rally officially began already.

The city’s Riverside (Costanera) will again be be the place chosen for the ceremonial start, just a few meters from the new Centro Encarnaceno de Volantes headquarters, the local organizers. Crews will climb the ramp tonight (Thursday 4th April) at 9pm.

Earlier on, the GPS devices were installed on the cars so that drivers and co-drivers could being their recce work. Special stages 9 to 19 will be able to be driven tomorrow in the morning. There is a total 70 entries (nine of them exclusively registered to participate in the FIA Codasur series).

Gustavo Saba and Fernando Mussano had their first taste of the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 in Misiones (Argentina) when the South American Championship kicked off last month, so it is now for them to try the German car performance in home soil. In normal conditions, Diego Domínguez and Edgardo Galindo should be their toughest rivals in the Hyundai i20. 12 months ago, he got his second consecutive win here. Just to name a few others, the top class will feature regular participants like Alejandro Galanti (Toyota Etios), the Škoda Fabias of Pedro Fadul, Agustín Alonso, Luis Maldonado (h), Blas Zapag, Luis and Miguel Ortega and Javier Ugarriza, the Ford Fiestas of Augusto Bestard and Juan Martín Masi (making his debut with it) and two other Polos for Miguel Ángel García and Miguel Zaldívar (now co-driven by Argentina’s Leonardo Suaya).

In RC2N, the top guys at the Wheel of the Mitsubishi Lancers should be César Martínez (Sr. and Jr.), Jacob Penner, Ricardo Escauriza, Iván Balbuena and Oscar Napout. In the categories allowing front-wheel drive machinery, some outstanding entries are those of RC4 champion Diego Domínguez Jr. (Peugeot 208), the Citroën DS3 RT3 Max of Álvaro Yaluk (occasionally joined by experienced Fernando Zuleta) and César Cruz (current RC3 title holder driving this car for the first time), the Honda Civic Type R and Si of Miguel Bravo, Jorge Ocampos, Miguel Cabral, Diego Cruz, Wilfred Klassen, Diego Elizeche and Sebastián Lafarja, the Volkswagen Gol of Nicolás Baeza and Sebastián Martínez, the Ford Fiesta R2 of Fabrizio Yaluk, the Fiat Palio of Brazilian André Allegretti, the Toyota Corolla of Riyosuke Shima and the Etios driven by Fabrizio Galanti.   

More details

The Shakedown will take place in the nearby area of Encarnación by Friday noon around two laps to the stage. The 2WD cars can do that from 11:30am to 1:30pm and the 4WD cars from that time until 3:30pm. The Sambódromo 4.2-km stage will host the night superspecial counting as stages 1 and 2. During the weekend, six stages will be held on the Saturday and five on the Sunday. The dust track in Capitán Miranda will be the Power Stage which ends the rally, from where the crews will return to Centro Cívico for the prize giving at 4pm.

Santiago Silguero and Miguel Ferrara took a Group 4 Datsun 160J to the rally’s inaugural win in 1982. In the list of honour, one can find Juan Viveros, Alfredo Scheid, Eduardo Elizeche, Orlando Penner, Pedro Fadul, Marco Galanti Jr., Alejandro Galanti (most winning driver, six times),  Francisco Gorostiaga, Víctor Galeano, Tiago Weiler, Gustavo Saba and Diego Domínguez. Argentines Carlos Malarczuk, Roberto Sánchez and Marcos Ligato got South American and overall victories in the past. 

Place and weather

The rally is named after the state hosting it, one of 17 in Paraguay. Encarnación is its capital with about 200,000 inhabitants and outskirts, mainly farms owned by Italia, German, Polish and Asian immigrants. The city is located one side of the Paraná river. One the other side there is Posadas in Argentina, just across the bridge. Asunción is 370 km north-west.

Traditionally, the area was commercially important thanks to the car-train bridge connecting Itapúa with Misiones in Argentina since 1990. There are consulates in town for countries such as Germany, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Japan and Ukraine. Encarnación is nationally known as “Summer Capital” because of the many tourists visiting it in the hot season. It was founded in 1615 by Jesuit Roque González de Santa Cruz, the very first Paraguayan saint.

In 1848, an executive order sent the guaraní tribe away from their native lands. With some of their belongings, They were taken to Tupá Raý, so the town’s civil population virtually vanished for a while and most of them died as a consequence of being pushed to a far too small a village plagued by diseases.

During the last decade, the area including the well-known shops near the river was demolished and moved a few streets up so that the binational corporation Yacyretá could work there. Also, the place was covered by water, but the town hall used this to create what is today a modern riverside with plenty of entertainment, food and drink shops. The project actually needed time and a U$S1,000 million budget to afford a new port, regional airport, road accesses, artificial beaches, samba lane, tap running water, new neighbourhoods and financial compensation to house owners.

600.000 people live in Itapúa, third largest department in the country (after Central and Alto Paraná). It is the sixth largest (16.525 km²), too. In guaraní language, itá means rock (or Stone) and púa point, making it “pointed stone”.

The Jesuits are an important part of the region’s history. They settled in there five centuries ago among the originary tribes until 1768, the year in which they were literally expelled.

This was one fothe first areas pushing for immigrant to come and work the land, so German, Slavic, Ukrainian and later Japanese, Syrian and Lebanese families did do, mainly as farmers who growed rice, tung, soy, wheat and cotton using modern techniques.

50 years ago, the local Carnival each February started to become popular, so it attracted more visitors every year.

Rally Trans Itapúa goes through some towns where the sport has plenty of fans, such as Cambyretá, Hohenau, Bella Vista and Carmen del Paraná.

The weather is humid subtropical with rather hot summers and mild winters. Rains can fall anytime along the year. Some local plants to underline are the pirí, the totora and the lily pad, plus some palm tres and the wider arasapé. Typical animals found close to the water are ducks, lapwings and chajás, reptiles like the yacaré and mammals like the capybara, the coati and the otter castor. Among extinguished -or almost- species are the yaguareté, the puma (cougar), the ocelot, the tapir and the peccary, although there is an important natural park called Reserva San Rafael.

The weather forecast tells about likely showers for tomorrow, but there should be a shiny sun by the weekend and temperatures flowing from 17° to 26°C.

Itinerary

Special stages: 13 total (7 different stages).

Leg 1 distance: 220,05 km (114,38 special stages and 105,67 road sections).

Leg 2 distance: 152,57 km (62,56 special stages and 90,01 road sections).

Total distance: 372,62 km (176,94 special stages and 195,68 road sections).