- You're seeing a Škoda Fabia R5 eating TONS of dust (Picture by Nicolás Ermakoff, a fellow co-worker)

In Paraguay, where I come from, In terms of motorsport, we really love and enjoy everything about rally. Besides Chile, we have many R5 spec cars running in our national championship (in fact, we were the first to bring those cars to our continent n 2014), but there is something more special, and after you know about that, you will save for a year and then come see it in person.

It’s the Transchaco Rally, the toughest rally on the continent, one of the most extensive with 46 editions, and it could well be the toughest rally in the world right now (yeah, harder than Turkey or Cyprus). It runs in the Paraguayan Chaco, usually at the end of September (this year there was a forced exception, but that doesn’t matter) and it is the biggest event in Paraguayan motorsport.

If you don't notice about Paraguay, is in the middle of South America; the green section is the Paraguayan Chaco, where the rally takes place.

If you don't notice about Paraguay, is in the middle of South America; the green section is the Paraguayan Chaco, where the rally takes place.

A little history: in 1970, an American named Philip Bell, who worked for a state entity here in Paraguay, made an expedition to the Chaco, marveling at the terrain identical to the African savannas. He approached the Paraguayan Touring and Automobile Club (Paraguay’s ASN) -I work there, by the way- to raise the idea of a sporting event that, yes, would be inspired by the Safari Rally of Kenya. In May of 1971 the idea was consecrated when the sponsorship of the Dunhill International tobacco company was confirmed.

The first announcement

The first announcement

After four editions, n the middle of the decade, the FIA gave it a rating of 9.8 out of 10 in terms of difficulty, placing it among the toughest events on the planet. The event is 48 years old, but from 1,984 to 1,986 a presidential decree forced the suspension of the event. Since his return in 1987, he continues uninterruptedly; now how is the competition?

Is basically a Stage Rally, but closer to Cross Country. Like I said before, it is inspired by the Kenya's Safari because of the unrelenting terrain, and in terms of hardness, and not being attached to FIA standards in some things, it is still a one of a kind event.

If you don't believe me, just look at the competition map from 2019 Edition. 24 Special Stages (plus two Qualifying rounds which takes place in a local circuit a week before)

If you don't believe me, just look at the competition map from 2019 Edition. 24 Special Stages (plus two Qualifying rounds which takes place in a local circuit a week before)

The Rally takes place in three stages with total routes of more than 2,000 kilometers between special stages and liaisons; Only in one day can you approximate the total kilometers of special stages of a weekend in the World Rally Championship. In summary, a day in the Transchaco Rally is equivalent to a whole WRC round.

A week before the competition, a Qualifying Stage takes place in the Victor Ruben Dumot Racetrack. which combines tarmac (just the main straight) and gravel in a 5.3 km. track. Is disputed under a Super Special Stage regime, and by direct duels. The least time in two tryouts, will be the first to start from the Chaco. i don't have a picture of the track layout used in the Qualifying Stage, but, a photo of the scene will be useful too.

The roads where they are disputed are rural areas, and some old open roads during the Chaco War; its conditions force the use of “cages” with which they break the dry branches in the middle of the road -like the Safari Rally-, is like seeing Mad Max in motorsport.

A new generation Ford Fiesta R2T EcoBoost, the same as been seen in Junior WRC

A new generation Ford Fiesta R2T EcoBoost, the same as been seen in Junior WRC

The stages are marathon without intermediate service because it only happens once in the sections except for a possible repetition the next day. The start is usually before 06:00 AM and the first cars arrive at 16:00 hours, and their arrival can even be extended in the early hours of the morning.

As in the Safari Rally, the use of flame retardant clothes is omitted since the heat inside the cars easily exceeds 50° Celsius, but it is still obligatory to run with harnesses, helmets and HANS devices. The damage suffered by vehicles is staggering, but still manage to overcome the competition.

The first retirement in 2019 was a Škoda Fabia R5 driven by Javier Ugarriza... in the Third Special Stage

The first retirement in 2019 was a Škoda Fabia R5 driven by Javier Ugarriza... in the Third Special Stage

The cars that compete today are suitable for the FIA classes, and in the last three years, the winners were R5 spec cars. This year's winner was the Toyota Etios whose story I told a while ago.

Now, it has the Toyota Gazoo Racing Scheme

Now, it has the Toyota Gazoo Racing Scheme

More reasons to wish to see the toughest rally on the planet? There's a lot of pictures and videos in these Facebook FanPages: TACPy Deportiva (ASN's Sporting Commitee) and Rally.com.py (Paraguayan Rally Championship web and media source)

But, why not leave you a small gallery?

And finally, a video about the second rally day, considered the toughest in the whole weekend.

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