WRC Mexican WRC round gets underway in Guanajuato on Thursday evening
Corona Rally Mexico
FIA World Rally Championship, round 4 of 16
For immediate release
Wednesday, March, 7th 2007
CORONA RALLY MEXICO GETS UNDERWAY IN GUANAJUATO ON THURSDAY EVENING
Frenchman Loeb set for showdown with Ford duo of GrŲnholm and Hirvonen;
Qatar's defending PWRC champion Al-Attiyah faces fierce competition in Mexico;
Solberg and Atkinson set to give new Subaru Impreza WRC 2007 its WRC debut
LEON (Mexico): The BP Ford and CitroŽn Total World Rally Teams will resume their battle for supremacy in the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship, when the Corona Rally Mťxico, round four of the 16-event series, gets underway in the city of Guanajuato, east of Leůn, on Thursday evening.
Defending world champions, Sťbastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, feel that they are in an excellent position to repeat last year's success in their CitroŽn C4 WRC on the car's WRC gravel debut, but BP World Rally Team drivers Marcus GrŲnholm and Mikko Hirvonen have started the season superbly well and Ford holds the early advantage in the prestigious FIA Manufacturers' Championship after three events. Spaniard Dani Sordo Ė fourth in Mťxico last season - has again been nominated as CitroŽn's second factory driver.
After Loeb's win in Monte Carlo, GrŲnholm won the second round in Sweden and Hirvonen took his second ever WRC win in Norway recently to give the CitroŽn team an early warning that the BP Ford team are determined to retain the Manufacturers' title in 2007.
The Subaru World Rally Team have an excellent record in Mexico; Petter Solberg won the event in 2005 and finished second overall last season after leading early on. The Norwegian has started the season in a determined mood, with sixth place in Monte Carlo and fourth in Norway. He and teammate Chris Atkinson feel that they are capable of giving Subaru a first WRC victory since Solberg's success in the 2005 Wales Rally GB and Mexico would be the perfect backdrop for that success, as the event marks the WRC debut of Prodrive's new Subaru Impreza WRC 2007.
Norwegian Henning Solberg has switched from driving a Peugeot to join the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team this year and lines up alongside Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala and Matthew Wilson in a trio of Ford Focus RS WRC 2006s.
Argentineans Luis-Perez Companc and Juan Pablo Raies represent the Munchi's Ford World Rally Team in similar cars and Austria's Manfred Stohl drives a CitroŽn Xsara WRC as part of the OMV Kronos CitroŽn World Rally Team. He was third last year in Mťxico at the wheel of a Peugeot 307.
The event is also the second round of the FIA Production Rally Championship (PWRC), with defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah keen to move up the points' standings after a disappointing seventh place in Sweden last month. The Qatari, who finished 10th overall and second in PWRC in Mťxico last year, faces fierce competition over the 20 timed special stages from Japan's Fumio Nutahara and former champion and last year's Mexican PWRC winner Toshi Arai. No less than 18 PWRC teams have elected to tackle the Mexican round of the eight-event series.
Finland's Kristian Sohlberg lines up in his Subaru Impreza and P-WRC challenges can also be expected from San Marino's Mirco Baldacci, Italy's Mauro Rongoni, Poland's Leszek Kuzaj, Britain's Stuart Jones and Mark Higgins and Cypriot Spyros Pavlides. Austria's Andreas Aigner and American motorcross star Travis Pastrana also line up in production cars, with Pastrana set to tackle his first ever WRC rally.
Twelve Mexican drivers grace the entry list with Francisco Name and Rodrigo Salgado leading the way in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions. Mexican rally champion Benito Guerra will also wheel out a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII. Meanwhile, American Ken Block has entered a Subaru Impreza, but is better known for a recent 50-metre motorcycle jump he carried out in America for a television stunt show.
The Irish father and son duo of Austin and Gareth McHale have also entered the fourth ever WRC event in Mexico in a pair of Ford Focuses. Young Gareth finished a fine sixth overall in 2006 and has the advantage over his father of a later version of M-Sport's Focus.
This year's Corona Rally Mexico is the shortest ever WRC rally, with the compact route of 849.55km containing 366.06km of special stages. The Nextel Superspecial stage will be run on five occasions, with the remainder of the tests taking place over gravel surfaces. Of the 16 rallies in the WRC, the Mexican event takes place at the highest altitude in the championship with all the stages located over 2,000 metres above sea level.
Servicing is centralised at the permanent service park at the Poliforum in Leůn, although the ceremonial start will take place at nearby Guanajuato. Eight special stages are planned for Friday, with a further eight on Saturday and four on Sunday.
WRC-Manufacturers (after round 3 - Norway):
1. BP-Ford WRT 44
2. CitroŽn Total WRT 28
3. Stobart M-Sport Ford RT 16
4. Subaru WRT 15
5. OMV Kronos CitroŽn WRT 14
WRC-Drivers (after round 3 - Norway):
1. Marcus GrŲnholm 24
2. Mikko Hirvonen 20
3. Sťbastien Loeb 18
4. Henning Solberg 11
5. Dani Sordo/Petter Solberg 8
7. Chris Atkinson/Daniel Carlsson 6
9. Toni Gardemeister 5
10. Jari-Matti Latvala 4
PWRC (after round 1 - Sweden):
1. Oscar Svedlund 10
2. Anton Alen 8
3. Kristian Sohlberg 6
4. Armindo Araujo 5
5. Fumio Nutahara 4
6. Toshi Arai 3
7. Nasser Al-Attiyah 2
8. Fabio Frisiero 1
For further media information: Corona Rally Mexico Media Centre
Tel: (477) 784 9388, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.rallymexico.com