WRC Carnival atmosphere as massive crowds witness historic Rally Mexico start in downtown CDMX
RALLY GUANAJUATO CORONA 2017, March 9-12, 2017
2017 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3
For immediate release
Thursday, March 9th, 2017
CARNIVAL ATMOSPHERE AS MASSIVE CROWDS WITNESS HISTORIC RALLY
MEXICO START IN CAPITAL’S NOSTALGIC PLAZA DE LA CONSTITUCIÓN
· WRC drivers entertain the Mexican masses as Juho Hänninen claims early lead
MEXICO CITY (Mexico): The organisers of Rally Mexico fulfilled a dream of bringing the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship to the heart of Mexico City on Thursday. Several thousand spectators turned out in the rain at the historic Plaza de la Constitución to witness Toyota Gazoo World Rally Team’s Juho Hänninen edge into a slender 1.6-second lead over Citroën’s Kris Meeke and Ford’s Ott Tanak after two runs through a slippery 1.57km special stage around the Zócalo.
Massive crowds surrounded the special stage and spilled into the hectic surrounding streets to glimpse the latest generation of World Rally Cars make their first appearance in the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world and the biggest by population in the western hemisphere.
A carnival atmosphere built before the start and before the 24 cars left the ramp in reverse order to tackle the stage with American driver Dave Wallingford and his Canadian navigator Leanna Junnila enjoying the spotlight of creating WRC history by running first on the road.
It actually started to rain as Hyundai Motorsport’s Hayden Paddon began his first run and the slabbed asphalt was treacherously slippery for several of the Priority drivers running behind, including Thierry Neuville and Stéphane Lefebvre. Toyota’s Juha Hänninen set the fastest time through the opener from Kris Meeke, but M-Sport’s Sébastien Ogier complained that his engine had died and he struggled in the slippery conditions, although it began to dry slightly for the second run through the stage where Lefebvre stalled and Ogier set the quickest time.
Jari-Matti Latvala of the Toyota GAZOO Racing World Rally Team is confident that he can maintain his WRC lead. “It’s nice to be leading the championship. We were also leading at this stage in 2014 when we came to Mexico and we were first on the road. Sébastien (Ogier) won and we were second. Now we have new cars and it will be exciting on the gravel and interesting to see the performance level of the cars.”
Ford’s Elfyn Evans incurred a five-minute penalty before the start of the stage after he was forced to change his engine after the shakedown on Wednesday evening. The Welshman was also unlucky with a rain shower on the first run through the stage and dropped vital seconds to his rivals.
Sweden’s Pontus Tidemand snatched the early lead in the WRC 2 and headed back to León with an overnight lead of 12.7 seconds over Benito Guerra. Local hero Guerra is relishing this year’s event and was delighted that the decision had been taken to bring the start ceremony and a stage to the centre of his native Mexico City.
“It’s fantastic we are in my home in Mexico City,” said Guerra, who drives a Skoda Fabia R5, run by Motorsport Italia. “I am so happy to be here for the first time with the WRC. We have F1 in Mexico City and the World Endurance Championship, Formula E and now the WRC. These are four of the most important championships in motor sport. Formula racing is huge here and this is going to be the first time that many people in Mexico City have ever seen a rally.”
A chartered Boeing 737 had transported the entire Rally Guanajuato Corona entry from Del Bajío airport to CDMX’s Benito Juárez International Airport shortly after first light and a convoy of luxury coaches ferried competitors, senior team personnel, media and officials to a breakfast rendez-vous point at the Casa de los Azulejos.
Cars were already in situ adjacent to the special stage, as teams carried out media activities before the ceremonial start and two runs through the special stage after a heavy hail and thundery rain shower had affected the area before the start. After the times tests, cars were re-loaded immediately onto transporters to make the six-hour journey back to the Rally Campus Service Park, while competitors, media and team personnel returned to León by air.
Friday’s timetable offers a blend of four demanding gravel stages and three short spectator stages in the León area. There is no respite for competitors after the late return to León from Mexico City either and the opening timed test of the day will be the first of two passes through the 54.90km of the El Chocolate special – the longest of the entire event.
Teams will tackle the 19.68km of Las Minas on two occasions and a street stage and two passes around the twisty tracks of the local Autodrome. In a day’s route of 418.82km, 154.85km will be timed against the clock.
Rally Guanajuato Corona 2017 – leading positions after SS1:
1. Juha Hänninen (FIN)/Kaj Lindström (FIN) Toyota Yaris WRC 3min 37.2sec
2. Ott Tanak (EST)/Martin Jarveoja (EST) Ford Fiesta WRC 3min 38.8sec
2. Kris Meeke (GBR)/Paul Nagle (IRL) Citroën C3 WRC 3min 38.8sec
4. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3min 39.8sec
5. Hayden Paddon (NZL)/John Kennard (NZL) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3min 40.4sec
6. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Ford Fiesta WRC 3min 41.2sec
7. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Marc Marti (ESP) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3min 43.2sec
8. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Toyota Yaris WRC 3min 43.4sec
9. Pontus Tidemand (SWE)/Jonas Andersson (SWE) Skoda Fabia R5 3min 43.9sec
10. Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA)/Simone Scattolin (ITA) Ford Fiesta WRC 3min 47.5sec
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.