WRC Citroen set to lock horns with Ford in Rally Guanajuato Mexico

RALLY GUANAJUATO MEXICO 2012, March 8-11, 2012
2012 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3

For immediate release
Wednesday, March 7th, 2012


· Loeb and Hirvonen prepare for clash with Latvala and Solberg
· Qatar’s Al-Attiyah relishes WRC gravel challenge with new team
· Poland’s Michal Kosciuszko bids to extend PWRC lead in Mexico

LEÓN (Mexico): The Citroën Total World Rally Team will resume their fascinating tussle with the Ford World Rally Team in this weekend’s Rally Guanajuato Mexico, round three of the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship. 

The French manufacturer has held the upper hand in recent years and, largely thanks to eight-time World Champion Sébastien Loeb, Citroën has won the last four Manufacturers’ titles and seven in the last nine years – Ford won in 2006 and 2007. 

Both teams arrive in North America buoyed by spirited performances at the opening two rounds of the series in France and Sweden. Loeb secured maximum points for Citroën in round one and Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala redressed the balance for the Blue Oval in Sweden. It means that a mere 10 points separate the two teams, in Citroën’s favour, heading into this weekend’s Mexican showdown. 

Loeb’s track record in Mexico is second to none. The Frenchman has won each of his last five Mexican forays and he and his experienced new team-mate Mikko Hirvonen – who switched from Ford before the new season – will be strong favourites to extend the French team’s lead in the Manufacturers’ series. Loeb leads his colleague by seven points in the Drivers’ Championship. 

But Latvala’s confidence was boosted no end by his performance in Sweden and Petter Solberg is also a potent driver on gravel. The Norwegian is long overdue a WRC victory. The 2003 World Champion has not won a WRC event since the 2005 Wales Rally GB – a statistic he would dearly love to remove from his rallying curriculum vitae. 

Ford’s second tier team – the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team – is fielding a pair of Ford Fiesta RS WRCs for Estonian Ott Tanak and Russian driver Evgeny Novikov. The latter has begun the new season well and lies fifth in the Drivers’ standings after two consistent finishes in Europe. 

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah is delighted to be competing on equal terms with the WRC’s top flight now that his Qatar World Rally Team has a Citroën DS3 WRC for the former PWRC champion and Dakar Rally winner to drive. Al-Attiyah is a proven talent and could surprise many of the established front-runners on the Mexican gravel stages. 

Belgian Thierry Neuville represents the Citroën Junior Rally Team in his DS3 WRC and Norwegian Mads Østberg lines up in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC as the representative for the Adapta World Rally Team. 

Australian Chris Atkinson spent five seasons with the works Subaru team and one WRC rally with the Citroën Junior Team before switching to the Asia-Pacific rallying scene. He returns to the WRC in a two-car Monster Energy World Rally Team alongside American Ken Block. The pair are entered in two Ford Fiestas and Block is on a high, confidence-wise, after winning an event in the USA at the end of February. 

WRC Team Mini Portugal have taken over the reins of running the official Mini team from Prodrive and twice PWRC champion Armindo Araújo, from Portugal, and Brazilian Paulo Nobre represent the fledgling operation in Mexico. 

Volkswagen Motorsport are continuing the development of a new car for entry into next year’s WRC and Frenchman Sébastien Ogier and Dutchman Kevin Abbring will be giving valuable feedback to team technicians through their exploits in a pair of Škoda Fabia S2000s.

Mexico is also hosting the second round of the FIA Production World Rally Championship (PWRC) and Poland’s Michal Kosciuszko arrives in Leon with the goal of extending his seven-point championship lead at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. 

He faces competition from four series regulars and local wildcard entrant Rodrigo Salgado. Peruvian Nicolas Fuchs returns to the series for a second season and Mexican Benito Guerra will be hoping to please home fans now that he has joined up with Ralliart Italy, the team that took Armindo Araújo to a pair of PWRC titles in 2009 and 2010.

Italy’s Gianluca Linari starts his PWRC campaign with a Subaru Impreza in Mexico and Swedish lady Ramona Karlsson completes the Production car line-up.

Mexican drivers bolster the entry list: Ricardo Trivino and Spanish co-driver Alex Haro head the local contingent in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC and Francisco Name, Carlos Izquierdo, Ignacio De Izaurieta, Luis Orduna, Juan-Carlos Sarmiento and Guillermo Fonseca complete the local line-up, with Venezuelan driver Alberto Adriani rounding off the provision starting list. 

Tomorrow (Thursday) the competitive action gets underway with a new qualifying stage to determine the starting order for the opening leg of special stages. This 5.18km test will enable the stage winner to choose his starting position and reduce the risk of losing time by sweeping gravel off the track surfaces on Friday morning. 

This qualifying stage precedes the official start ceremony - to be held in front of the Alhóndiga de Granaditas in the historic town of Guanajuato – from 20.00hrs on Thursday evening. Cars then head straight into the first 1.05km DC Shoes Street Stage in Guanajuato, starting at 20.09hrs, before the overnight halt at the Poliforum in León. 


For further media information:
Guanajuato Rally Mexico 2012, Media Centre, Poliforum Expo Centre, León, Mexico, Tel: + 52 (477) 784-0599 or + 52 (477) 784-0627, E-mail: eugenio@rallymexico.com, mauriciog@rallymexico.com or ndppublicity@googlemail.com 




Date issued: 07/03/2012

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