WRC Rally Mexico offers first gravel challenge to new generation of World Rally Cars
RALLY GUANAJUATO CORONA 2017, March 9-12, 2017
2017 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3
For immediate release
Tuesday, March 7th, 2017
RALLY MEXICO OFFERS FIRST GRAVEL CHALLENGE TO NEW GENERATION OF WORLD RALLY CARS
· Pre-rally gravel testing could be critical for the likes of M-Sport and Toyota Gazoo Racing
LEÓN (Mexico): This week’s 14th Rally Guanajuato Corona will mark the first opportunity for a global audience to witness the performance of a new generation of World Rally Cars pushed to their limits over punishing gravel surfaces in high ambient temperatures.
Mexico’s traditional third round of the FIA World Rally Championship has attracted all the leading factory teams and a fascinating four days await, with crews set to tackle 19 varied special stages, totalling 370.46km, in a compact route of 897.68km
The new Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team has made a superb start to the new season and Jari-Matti Latvala’s sensational victory in Sweden surprised even members of his own team. But the heat and altitude of Rally Mexico will be an altogether different proposition for the new Yaris WRC and 52-year-old team principal Tommi Mäkinen is eager to point out that he has concerns so early in the development of the new car.
“The majority of our testing has been on gravel, so we can be reasonably confident, but we need to take into account the altitude and the high temperatures,” said the Finn, who won the Drivers’ Championship with a Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution on four occasions between 1996 and 1999. “Last year we tested in Spain with high ambient temperatures and the engineers have done a lot of work on the engine mapping for altitude. Until you experience these things though, you never know.”
Latvala leads the championship by four points after two rounds and arrives in León as the defending Rally Mexico champion. But last year’s triumph was achieved in very different circumstances: the Finn benefited from a favourable starting position on the road and acknowledges that several of his main rivals struggled as a result of their starting positions.
“This year it’s going to be the other way round, so you have to take away what you can. I guess I would be happy with a top five finish. The fans called me ‘La Bala’ - which means the bullet - last time, so I hope I don’t disappoint them this year!”
The M-Sport World Rally Team has left nothing to chance in the build up to Rally Mexico and the team’s Ford Fiestas have completed in the region of 1,500km of gravel testing. Sébastien Ogier joined the team after Volkswagen Motorsport withdrew from the championship at the end of the 2016 season and the Frenchman is chasing a fourth win in Mexico.
M-Sport leads the Manufacturers’ series by 20 points, largely because of Ogier’s win in Monte Carlo and a second place in Sweden for his Estonian team-mate Ott Tanak. Ogier will not be opening the road on this occasion either and that, coupled with positive recent durability testing with the Fiesta, should give M-Sport a serious chance of winning the event and extending their lead in the series.
“It will still be a big challenge because we will be the second car into the stages and we will still be carrying out quite a bit of road cleaning,” admitted Ogier. “Now is when I will get the feeling of the new car on gravel.”
Rival factory teams, Hyundai Motorsport and the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, have also been working hard to devise the ideal set up for the unique conditions they will face in the hills and along the winding tracks of the Guanajuato region. It all lays the foundations for what promises to be a thrilling tussle over the coming few days.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) features a completely revised format. Competitors will be permitted to complete their reconnaissance of the special stages through to lunchtime, while competition cars go through their rigorous checks to determine FIA legality with official pre-event scrutineering.
To cater for the revised timetable on Thursday in Mexico City, the official shakedown stage has been moved forward from Thursday morning to Wednesday afternoon.
Crews will now carry out their shakedown from 4pm onwards on Wednesday before all competing vehicles are loaded on to transporters late on Wednesday evening and taken to Zócalo for the official start of the event in downtown Mexico City on Thursday afternoon.
After the ceremonial start in the heart of the capital, two passes through a brand new CDMX Street Stage Presented by Michelin are planned in front of millions of television viewers and a massive crowd that is anticipated will be in the tens of thousands.
For further media information:
Rally Guanajuato Corona 2017, Media Centre, Poliforum Expo Centre, León, Mexico, E-mail: Adrian@rallymexico.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: + 52 (477) 771-4570.