WRC Loeb and Hirvonen set to resume duel in Mexico
RALLY GUANAJUATO BICENTENARIO, March 4th-7th, 2010
2010 FIA World Rally Championship, round 2
For immediate release
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010
LOEB AND HIRVONEN SET TO RESUME HIGH-SPEED DUEL IN MEXICO
· Czech Martin Prokop heads S-WRC field in new Ford Fiesta S2000
· Portugal’s Armindo Araújo bids to snatch P-WRC lead in Mexico
LEÓN (Mexico): Defending FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb and arch-rival Mikko Hirvonen will resume their duel for supremacy in this weekend’s Rally Guanajuato Bicentenario, round two of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), in Mexico.
Frenchman Loeb will be chasing an unprecedented 55th WRC victory, as he bids to steer his Citroën C4 WRC to its first win of the season and prevent his flying Finnish rival from clinching a second successive WRC win for the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team.
Hirvonen arrived in the town of León in the Guanajuato region of Mexico with a seven-point lead in the FIA Drivers’ Championship after his sensational victory in Sweden. The Finn will be chasing a 13th career WRC win, but the arduous gravel stages that make the Mexican round of the WRC so demanding will push both drivers to the limit.
Loeb will be chasing his fourth victory in Mexico in five years – the event was not a round of the WRC in 2009 – and will have the full support of team-mate Dani Sordo in a second Citroën Total World Rally Team C4 WRC. The French team trails Ford by 10 points after round one, but has an impressive winning record in Mexico.
Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala claimed the final podium place in Sweden and the 24-year-old is feeling confident after a useful test session in Spain recently and his positive start to the season.
This will be his fourth Mexican start, but Latvala is leaving nothing to chance: "Mexico's high altitude affects the engine's performance and because there is less power, the car takes longer to reach top speed. It's important to keep the correct line through corners, particularly in uphill sections, because a mistake costs more time than usual while the engine regains its power.”
Frenchman Sébastien Ogier made a solid start to the new season with the Citroën Junior Team by taking fifth place in Sweden. He made headlines two years ago in Mexico by winning the J-WRC category in a Citroën C2 on his WRC debut. He has gone from strength to strength ever since and will be pushing for the podium over the 22 special stages that make up the timetable of the three-day Mexican challenge.
Citroën Junior Team colleague and former F1 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen has been keeping a low profile in the build up to his first Mexican adventure. The Finn finished out of the points in Sweden after an indiscretion, but his determination to succeed is well known and he is sure to relish the challenge of the Guanajuato gravel stages.
Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson represent the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team in a pair of Ford Focus RS WRC 08s and former rally winner Petter Solberg returns to Mexico in his privately-run Citroën C4 WRC. Argentina’s Federico Villagra of the Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team completes the line-up of Priority One drivers. This is the first of eight rallies for the Munchi’s Team this season.
The Rally Guanajuato Bicentenario is also the second round of the S-WRC and P-WRC Championships. The new dedicated support series for Super 2000 cars (S-WRC) is a dress rehearsal for the vehicles that will form the basis for World Rally Cars from 2011.
Per-Gunnar Andersson took maximum points from Janne Tuohino and Martin Prokop on round one in Sweden and Prokop has an excellent opportunity of taking the series lead in Mexico in the absence of his Scandinavian rivals.
The Czech gives the new Ford Fiesta S2000 its Mexican debut, but faces stiff competition for S-WRC glory from Norway’s Eyvind Brynildsen and Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah in a pair of Skoda Fabia S2000s, Poland’s Michal Kosciuszko and Spaniard Xavier Pons in Ford Fiesta S2000s and Andorra-based Albert Llovera in a Fiat Abarth Grand Punto S2000.
The P-WRC category has entered its 23rd year and Sweden’s Patrik Flodin claimed maximum points and the series lead in Sweden recently. Nine of the 13 rounds of the WRC count for the showroom category and registered drivers must tackle six rallies to be eligible.
Flodin and Sweden runner-up Anders Grondal will miss the Mexican jaunt and that leaves the door open for defending champion Armindo Araújo to add to the 15 points he scored in Sweden for third place. The Portuguese heads the P-WRC category in Mexico in his Ralliart Italy Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, with competition likely from Italy’s Gianluca Linari and Hungarian Gabor Mayer in a pair of Subarus.
Japan’s Toshi Arai is a former P-WRC World Champion, but suffered a major pre-event setback when he damaged his Subaru Impreza on a Monday test in Mexico. The car has been repaired in time for the event and the Japanese should be one of Araújo’s closest challengers.
Italy’s Giorgio Bacco, Argentina’s Miguel-Angel Baldoni and the Mexican duo of Benito Guerra and Rodrigo Salgado complete the list of Priority 3 drivers taking part in the P-WRC category in a quartet of Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions.
American driver Ken Block of the Monster World Rally Team heads the remainder of the international field in his Ford Focus RS WRC 08. The list also includes former Champ Car racer Michel Jourdain and veteran Mexican driver Ricardo Triviňo.
There are only minor changes to the format of the event since it last appeared in the WRC in 2008. A short street stage has been introduced in the middle of the opening two legs near the service park in León, but the only other major change is the introduction of new tracks for one of the day three specials.
In a compact route of 858.05km, 41% of the distance (354.86km) will be competitive with the second and sixth Ortega special stages rising to an altitude of 2,737 metres above sea level – the highest point the WRC will reach this season.
The rally begins on Thursday evening with the ceremonial start in Guanajuato - a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. Special stage action on Friday, Saturday and Sunday takes place to the north and east of León with the ceremonial finish scheduled for 13.00hrs on Sunday afternoon.
Top 10 starters
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 09
Sébastien Loeb (F)/Daniel Elena (F) Citroën C4 WRC
Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 09
Dani Sordo (E)/Marc Marti (E) Citroën C4 WRC
Sébastien Ogier (F)/Julien Ingrassia (F) Citroën C4 WRC
Henning Solberg (N)/Ilka Minor (A) Ford Focus RS WRC 08
Matthew Wilson (GB)/Scott Martin (GB) Ford Focus RS WRC 08
Petter Solberg (N)/Phil Mills (GB) Citroën C4 WRC
Kimi Räikkönen (FIN)/Kaj Lindström (FIN) Citroën C4 WRC
Federico Villagra (RA)/Jorge Perez Companc (RA) Ford Focus RS WRC 08
2010 FIA World Rally Championship
Drivers’ Championship – after round one
1. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) 25 pts
2. Sébastien Loeb (F) 18 pts
3. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) 15 pts
4. Dani Sordo (E) 12 pts
5. Sébastien Ogier (F) 10 pts
6. Henning Solberg (N) 8 pts
7. Matthew Wilson (GB) 6 pts
8. Mads Ǿstberg (N) 4 pts
9. Petter Solberg (N) 2 pts
10. Per-Gunnar Andersson (S) 1 pt
Manufacturers’ Championship – after round one
1. BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 40 pts
2. Citroën Total World Rally Team 30 pts
3. Citroën Junior Team 14 pts
4. Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team 14 pts
For further media information:
Rally Guanajuato Bicentenario Media Centre, Poliforum Expo Centre, León, Mexico, Tel: + 52 (477) 7714867 or + 52 (477) 7114828, E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org