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Mexico - 6-9 Mar 14

Posted: May 24, 2014 9:27 PM - 3712 Hits

Round 3 - 2014 World Rally Championship

PIRELLI’S NEW SCORPION GRAVEL TYRES ON WRC2 PODIUM IN MEXICO

Posted: May 24, 2014 3:53 PM

Pirelli put two cars on the WRC2 podium on its return to the World Rally Championship with the all-new Scorpion tyre for gravel, after a three-year absence.

Pirelli is coming back to the World Rally Championship this year, supplying tyres on a customer basis to privateers – which already resulted in a fastest stage time overall on the last round in Sweden. In Mexico, Pirelli customers were competing in the WRC2 rather than the top class, with two of them ending up on the podium.

Lorenzo Bertelli finished 13th overall and second in WRC2 in his Ford Fiesta RRC, just ahead of Max Rendina in 14th overall (and third in WRC2) with a Mitsubishi Lancer. Both drivers keep up their podium record with Pirelli this year, having also achieved top-three places in their class in Monte Carlo. Rendina also won the Group N Cup for the second time in a row, on only his second WRC outing outside Italy.

The highest-placed Pirelli runner overall on the event was local man Ricardo Cordero, who was 12th in a Mitsubishi Lancer. This underlines how local privateers can still challenge the established frontrunners thanks to the durability of Pirelli’s products.

On the highest and hottest round of the World Rally Championship, Pirelli brought the hard compound Scorpion XR5 tyre and the soft compound XR7. The new XR is a symmetrical (non-directional) tyre, which makes each tyre interchangeable on either side of the car, giving team more flexibility. The unique construction means that it works well on hard surfaces as well as loose gravel: both of which were in evidence in Mexico.

Pirelli’s senior tyre engineer Matteo Braga said: “Mexico proved to be one of the toughest events of the year, as the attrition at the front of the field showed. Unlike Sweden we didn’t have any drivers running in the top class, but we still managed to show the qualities of our new XR product, which contains some sophisticated new materials following a complete redesign, in the WRC2 class. We placed two cars on the podium, with both drivers showing front-running pace in the category, despite the unfamiliar conditions against strong local experts. Our XR tyre proved to be very resistant, with little degradation even in the very long stages such as the 55 kilometres of Guanajuatito: one of the toughest tests of the year. Levels of wear were also very contained, which allowed the drivers to show a strong performance in all conditions, however rough. So, on only the third event of our WRC return, this is very encouraging for the future.”

POINTS FOR MADS ØSTBERG AND CITROËN

Posted: May 24, 2014 3:52 PM

Impressive in the early stages of the rally, Mads Østberg headed the overall standings between SS3 and SS6 on Friday.

However on day two, the crew ran into difficulties when they broke part of the suspension on their car. Despite their attempts to repair the damage, they failed to arrive on time for the start of the next stage.

After rejoining this morning under Rally 2 rules, the Norwegian continued to drive at a strong pace, securing two stage wins today, firstly on the longest stage of the rally, the 56 kilometre-long Guanajuatito, and then on Derramadero.

Having moved back into the top 10, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson ended up scoring two points. They therefore remain in third place in the Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ Championships.

Ninth overall this morning, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle ran into trouble after hitting a rock on the Power Stage and were unable to complete the rally.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE

Mads Østberg:
“There are many positives we can take from the rally. We clearly have the speed. We showed that we are able to match the pace of the best crews. Today’s final leg has given us the opportunity to work on preparations for the upcoming events. Apart from one unfortunate corner, it was a very good rally. I’m really pleased to finish the rally with a couple of stage wins. I am convinced that we have improved this week. We know a lot more now than we did at the start of the rally. We have some very solid foundations we can build on in our tests for the Rally de Portugal.”

Kris Meeke:
“I feel like I have made a huge amount of progress in terms of understanding the Citroën DS3 WRC and the pace to adopt in the stages. It’s very disappointing not to finish the rally. On the Power Stage, I had good pace notes and I was on the right line, but I hit a rock on the inside of a corner. I was first on the road, so I couldn’t avoid it. Not making it to the finish is very frustrating even if there are lot of positives that we can take away from this rally.”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal):
“Obviously, it’s a disappointing result when you know the potential of our team, the Citroën DS3 WRCs and our crews. Once again Mads showed, however, that he was capable of matching the best drivers. He was one of the quickest drivers throughout the weekend. He is improving consistently and quickly, which is highly encouraging for the next few events. As regards Kris, obviously it was tough for him competing in such a difficult rally for the first time. We knew our crews were relatively inexperienced. We’ve probably paid the price for that today, but that takes nothing away from their potential.”

EVANS SECURES CAREER-BEST FOURTH IN MEXICO

Posted: May 24, 2014 3:49 PM

It was a job well done for the M-Sport World Rally Team today as Elfyn Evans secured a career-best fourth place at Rally Mexico. Mikko Hirvonen also fought back to eighth place – demonstrating his potential to challenge for the top positions through the loose-surface terrain.

Following an inspired drive on his first venture to the Mexican event, Evans was one of the success stories of the weekend. Having been in the fight for the podium positions, the youngster showed real maturity with flashes of speed on what is only his fourth event behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

With his mind firmly fixed on developing his skills as a world-class driver, the Welshman refused to be drawn into any unnecessary risks. Despite having the upper-hand over rival Thierry Neuville through the opening speed tests, experience played its card and the rookie opted for the sensible approach – unfazed by the tempting prospect of a maiden FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) podium.

This weekend’s event marks a landmark for both Evans and his co-driver Daniel Barritt – each surpassing their previous ‘bests’ of sixth and fifth respectively. Learning with each new kilometre, the British duo are creating the foundations for what is set to be a very impressive development year.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen came back strongly following their earlier disappointment. Having been forced to accept Rally 2 regulations with a high temperature reading on the IDU (driver injector unit) through Friday’s second pass of ‘Las Minas’ (SS8), the Finns refused to give up the fight.

Testing a number of set-up configurations for the up-coming loose-surface events, Hirvonen looked at one behind the wheel of his Fiesta. After setting a string of top-three stage times on Saturday’s tricky leg through the Sierra de Lobos mountains, the Finn continued his strong showing today.
Saving his tyres over the opening speed tests, the popular driver went on the attack for the points-paying Power Stage. Despite running first on the road, he set the third fastest time to add an additional point to those secured in his creditable comeback to eighth place overall.

Come the end of an encouraging event, the M-Sport World Rally Team will be full of confidence as the WRC returns to Europe for the gravel tracks of Rally de Portugal in three weeks’ time.

Elfyn Evans (4th) said:
“I certainly didn’t come here expecting to finish fourth – simply to finish would have been an achievement given how little experience we have on these kinds of stages and how many of the top drivers were caught out!

“We put in some strong performances on some individual stages and identified a few areas for improvement as the weekend went on. It’s all part of the learning curve and we’re really looking forward to Portugal.”

Mikko Hirvonen (8th) said:
“It was a real shame that we had the problem on Friday, but that is part of the game sometimes. We would certainly have been fighting for the podium – maybe even the second place as well – but there are still a lot of positives to take from this event.

“I believe we can definitely fight as the season goes on. We were able to try a few things with the car over the last couple of days, and I am feeling really happy with what we have learnt. We have a few ideas on how we can make further improvements and with more testing coming up I think we can develop even more and be a real threat on all of the rallies.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It has been a very encouraging weekend for us. Elfyn [Evans] is progressing really well and his fourth place – his best ever finish in the WRC – is thoroughly well deserved. He wasn’t drawn into any unnecessary battles and did exactly what was asked of him – all in all a very mature drive from a driver who has the potential to do extremely well in the future.

“It was also good to see Mikko [Hirvonen] get his spark back. The problem on Friday was a real disappointment for the team, but the way he fought back proves that he has lost none of his ambition or his determination to win. He goes to Portugal with his confidence high and the potential to be a real contender for the top positions.”

WIN NUMBER TWO – IN WRC 2 – FOR PROTASOV

Yuriy Protasov and Pavlo Cherepin secured a second victory in the WRC 2 category today, to take a clear lead in the championship standings.

Matching the speed of their rivals, the Ukrainian pairing – who pilot an M-Sport prepared Ford Fiesta R5 – adopted a tactical drive through Mexico’s challenging stages to finish inside the overall top-ten for the second time this season.

With close to a 25 minute lead going into the final day, not even a broken driveshaft – incurred after a heavy landing on SS19 – could halt the youngster on what has been a very mature and impressive drive.

Making it though all 22 stages, the Ukrainian finished 23 minutes ahead of his nearest rival to affect a clean-sweep of WRC 2 victories for M-Sport’s range of Ford Fiesta rally cars so far this season.

Yuriy Protasov (1st in WRC 2 / 10th overall) said:
“We are happier than we could have ever imaged to be at the end of this rally. It was a very good result for us and to have won by such a margin – against so many strong drivers – is a very good feeling.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“With so much drama this weekend, Yuriy [Protasov] didn’t put a foot wrong, and even when he developed a small issue on the final day, he had established such a strong lead that he was able to manage the issue and take the Fiesta home for another thoroughly deserved victory.

“It is very satisfying indeed to see our cars performing so well in the WRC’s premier support series. Thanks to Yuriy’s victory this weekend, a Fiesta has won every single round of the series so far this year and that is a big boost for the teams both on- and off-event who put a vast amount of work into each and every one of our Fiesta models.”

Viva Mexico, viva Volkswagen – One-two for Ogier and Latvala

Posted: May 24, 2014 3:48 PM

Faster and with greater stamina than Speedy Gonzales – Volkswagen enjoyed an outstanding double success at the Rally Mexico. In doing so, winners Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) and runners-up Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) cheated the regulations and extreme conditions at the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). En route to the seventh Volkswagen victory in a row, the two leaders in the World Championship laid the foundations for their one-two on the opening day. They were faced with the obstacle of being first and second onto the route. Despite this, they had still battled their way to first and third place by the end of the first third of the rally. That all-action display was followed by a flawless second day, which saw Ogier and Latvala move to the top of the standings and open up a substantial lead, which just kept growing. On the final day, Ogier and Latvala comfortably controlled the pace to claim the fourth one-two for the Polo R WRC in 16 outings in the World Rally championship. Ignoring the break between seasons, this was the seventh victory in a row for Volkswagen. Come the end of the rally in Mexico, Ogier/Ingrassia were a mighty 5:28.6 minutes ahead of the best-placed non-Volkswagen driver.

The world’s fastest street sweeper: awesome effort from the Volkswagen duo

The WRC regulations meant the two Volkswagen drivers were faced with a luxurious problem on the opening day of the rally. As first, second and fourth in the World Championship, they had the dubious honour of opening the route. In few other rallies is this such a major disadvantage as in Mexico. More and more of the layer of loose gravel is swept out of the way with every World Rally Car that passes. The disadvantage is calculated at about 0.1 seconds per kilometre and per competitor. However, the Volkswagen pairings of Ogier/Ingrassia and Latvala/Anttila produced an energetic display to negate this hindrance. Eight of eleven stage wins went to Wolfsburg on day one alone.

Bonus points on the Power Stage, World Championship lead extended in all three classifications

With victory in Mexico, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia moved into the lead in the overall standings of the World Rally Championship – just ahead of their Volkswagen team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila. Ogier and Ingrassia lead both the Driver and Co-Driver classifications with 63 points, followed by Latvala and Anttila with 60 points. Between them, the two cars increased the lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship significantly. Volkswagen now has 115 points to its name – 55 more than its closest rival Citroën. Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula are fourth overall with 24 points.

XXL team performance – Polo R WRC #9 perfectly restored to working order

The day’s rallying twice ended ahead of schedule for Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN). On Friday, the Volkswagen duo hit a stone when exiting a corner on the “El Chocolate” special stage and damaged the rear-right suspension, bringing their day to a premature end having previously been running second. On Saturday, a mistake in the pace notes resulted in Mikkelsen/Markkula rolling their car when they cut too much off a corner and were flipped over by a hole in the road. Thanks to the outstanding job done by their mechanics, the number nine Polo R WRC was back as good as new by the time it took to the road for Sunday’s special stages. They managed to get the World Rally Car back into top condition within the three-hour time limit specified in the regulations. Mikkelsen/Markkula used the Sunday to gain as much experience as possible at rally pace, setting four top-three times in the process.

High altitude, heat, homework – Polo R WRC, the cleverest World Rally Car

Absolutely reliable and equipped with an intelligent engine control unit, the Volkswagen Polo R WRC set the technological benchmark at the Rally Mexico. The special stages took the teams from about 1,800 metres to 2,800 metres above sea level. The higher you get, the lower the air pressure, oxygen content in the air and cooling efficiency of the engine sink. At temperatures around the 30-degree mark, the objective was to minimise the loss of performance. The Volkswagen engineers took care of the software intelligence of the World Rally Car from Wolfsburg well in advance of the rally in Central America. The engine control unit is used without modification from Monte Carlo right through to the final round in Great Britain.

Physical and mental strength the key to success

Like their World Rally Cars, the Volkswagen drivers and co-drivers arrived at the Rally Mexico as well prepared as physically possible. Fitness was a key to success, particularly on the seven special stages at over 30 kilometres in length, which were tackled at high altitude and in scorching heat. Here too, Volkswagen left nothing to chance: the staff at the sports clinic in Bad Nauheim were tasked with looking after the physical condition of the team. Fitness and diet plans, regular performance tests throughout the season and comprehensive on-site care are part of the everyday rally routine at Volkswagen.

Facts, facts, facts – Volkswagen up there with the best

Volkswagen secured a place in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) record lists with victory number seven in a row. The wins in Australia, France, Spain and Great Britain last year were followed by triumphs in Monte Carlo, Sweden and Mexico this season to produce the second-longest winning run in WRC history. Sébastien Ogier claimed his 18th overall win in the World Rally Championship, with eleven of these successes coming in Volkswagen colours.

Quotes after day three of the Rally Mexico

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Mexico really is a fantastic country for us! I like the rally, and it seems to like me. I picked up my first win as a junior here back in 2008 and took overall victory with Volkswagen last year – and now here I am, back on the top step of the podium. It is a fantastic feeling. Our entire team did a sensational job all weekend, and the Polo R WRC was once again super reliable and super quick in extreme conditions. I was hungry for this win after my mistake in Sweden! That is why Julien and I refrained from taking any risks on the final day. We really wanted to get this win under our belts. And it goes without saying that I also wanted to get my hands on the Power Stage points. Although we will now have to act as street sweepers for the opposition at the next round in Portugal, the World Championship points are more important than anything else.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“I am really very happy with second place. Having been first onto the route on day one, which meant we were quite a long way off the lead, we set our sights on a place on the podium. The Rally Mexico was hard work and also very demanding on the cars. The Polo coped admirably with the stresses and strains of the high altitude and soaring temperatures, and our team also did a perfect job. Thanks for that. That was the best Rally Mexico so far for Miikka and me. We came through without any mistakes and finished runner-up for the first time. We are still almost level with our team-mates, without having to start first again in Portugal.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“A tough rally for us. Retiring twice is not exactly what we had in mind. I just made too many mistakes. Thanks to the great job done by my mechanics, I was still able to gain a few kilometres of experience at the Rally Mexico on Sunday, which will allow us to push hard again next year. All in all, we learned an awful lot here – unfortunately we did it the hard way. I will analyse it in detail over the coming days, and will prepare as well as possible for the coming rally in Portugal. We will come back stronger, and hopefully return to the podium there.”

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“A one-two in these difficult conditions and given the new regulations regarding the starting order is more than we had expected coming into the Rally Mexico. I take my hat off to Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and our engineers, who made this success possible. The performance of the two drivers was undoubtedly outstanding. However, the one-two is also a team success. Whether the chassis department or the engine department, the Polo R WRC was perfectly prepared for the difficult conditions. The champagne tastes particularly good today, as success in Mexico is always a bit special. It is the first gravel event of the year, and virtually a home event for Volkswagen. After all, our models are part of the scenery here. Everything came together here in Mexico, and we are very proud of what we have achieved.”

And then there was ...
... Volkswagen Mexico. From the roadshow in Mexico City to the guest services in León and out on the special stages, our Mexican colleagues ensured everything was perfectly organised. Thank you! Volkswagen Mexico also celebrated its 50th anniversary in León.

And then there was also ...
... the chef in the Volkswagen team. Daniel Zillgen spent the past few days meticulously ensuring that only American or Argentinean meat was served. In the case of Mexican meat, there is a risk that the drug Clenbuterol was used during breeding. This particular drug is also a banned doping substance.

DMACK And Tänak Show Stunning Speed In Mexico

Posted: May 24, 2014 3:46 PM

DMACK’s gravel rally tyre shone in the Mexican sunshine this weekend as drivers used its superior performance to dominate the WRC 2 time-sheets at Rally Guanajuato Mexico. Estonian Ott Tänak set fastest times on every stage he completed at round three of the FIA World Rally Championship, but was robbed of victory after an early accident.

Tänak headed the Drive DMACK World Rally Team challenge, kick-starting his WRC 2 campaign in style in Mexico. He was blisteringly fast from the start and set an incredible second fastest overall time on the opening blast through the Monster Street Stage in front of tens of thousands of spectators on Thursday evening.

Beaten only by current world rally champion Sebastien Ogier, by a mere 0.3 seconds, the result gave DMACK its best-ever position in the overnight classification.

But a pacenote error on Friday saw Tänak go off the road, causing significant damage after colliding heavily with a tree. The Autotek team pulled out all the stops to get him and co-driver Raigo Molder back out on Saturday and Tänak repaid their efforts by setting fastest WRC 2 times on every remaining stage.

He dominated WRC 2 for the remainder of the challenging event, setting a raft of stunningly quick times to seal an unbeatable performance and battle back to fourth place.

Current Production Cup champion Nicolas Fuchs also fell foul of the tough day one conditions and was sidelined with broken suspension. Rejoining the arduous action he delivered a perfect Peruvian performance to come home in sixth.

French ace Quentin Gilbert endured a tough DMACK debut with the Fiesta R5 in WRC 2. He also retired on Friday after going off the road and damaging the rear suspension, but set strong times on Saturday as he focused on maximising his experience of the conditions. However, his rally came to an abrupt end this morning after radiator damage on the super special stage parked his challenge.

Gilbert will be searching for better luck at Rally Portugal when he switches to a Fiesta R2 for the opening round of the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy.

Top DMACK runner was Rodrigo Salgado who steered his Autotek Fiesta R5 to 11th overall and second of the local Mexican drivers.

The first gravel rally of the season was a tough event. The high altitude stages around Leon and Guanajuato are renowned for their thin air which chokes engines and quashes power output. However, the biggest challenge were the long competitive stages which characterised each day.

All three main days boasted stages in excess of 44km and today’s final action featured the mammoth 55.92km Guanajuatito test – with some sections used for the third time this weekend.

DMACK’s gravel tyre, the DMG+2, handled the conditions impeccably. DMACK runners dominated the WRC 2 time sheets setting fastest and second fastest times on all seven of Saturday’s timed tests. Competitors used the nominated hard S3 compound throughout the event, with a maximum permitted 24 tyres, to safely negotiate the rocky roads.

The compact route saw action take place across the dirt roads traversing the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanjuato mountains. After the traditional energetic ceremonial start in the stunningly colourful town of Guanajuato, the rally featured long competitive loops and dusty, hot conditions. Competitors were faced with nearly 400km of timed action split across 22 stages.

Dick Cormack, DMACK motorsport director, said: “In terms of performance, our tyres have excelled here in Mexico amidst some challenging conditions. Ott dominated the WRC 2 stage times and almost certainly would’ve taken victory here without his accident, but he’s proved just how competitive DMACK has become on gravel events. We’ve already had wins for our soft gravel tyre but the performances this weekend from both Ott and Nicolas have been extremely encouraging for the hard compound. It gives us confidence for the rest of the season and for the WRC 2 championship.”

Ott Tänak said: “Apart from our problem on Friday it was a strong rally for us. We pushed when we could and the feeling with both the car and the tyres was good – the DMACK tyres have improved so much since I last used them in 2011. I was happy with our pace and we know we have the speed but obviously it was unfortunate that we made the mistake on Friday.”

VOLKSWAGEN’S OGIER AND INGRASSIA GAIN WRC LEAD AFTER SEALING SECOND VICTORY IN MEXICO

Posted: May 24, 2014 3:45 PM

The French crew of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia stayed clear of trouble on the final morning of the 11th Rally Guanajuato Corona to seal a second successive victory in the Mexican event and move to the top of the points’ standings in the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship.

Leading by 1min 00.3sec at the start of the final morning’s four timed special stages, the Volkswagen Polo R WRC crew won two more tests to confirm a winning margin over team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila of 1min 12.6sec. The result was also Latvala’s best ever result in Mexico.

Ogier’s second Mexican win duly made him the equal ninth most successful driver in the history of the championship with 18 victories. The Frenchman duly surpassed Miki Biasion’s total of 17 successes and equalled the legendary Finn Hannu Mikkola, although Ogier still has some way to go to match former team-mate Sébastien Loeb’s stunning record of 78 WRC wins.

“It was a perfect week,” said Ogier. “I came here very angry after what happened in Sweden. The car was perfect, very strong and very fast. I am very happy.”

The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team confirmed a totally unexpected podium finish on only their third WRC event since returning to the championship with the i20 WRC. Belgian Thierry Neuville held his nerve and avoided mistakes to confirm a fine third position with co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul.

The podium finish marked a little piece of history for the Korean manufacturer. It was their first top three success in the history of the WRC and bettered a pair of previous fourth-placed finishes for Kenneth Eriksson (Rally Australia – 2000) and Alister McRae (Wales Rally GB – 2001). Australia’s Chris Atkinson finished a solid seventh in the second car.

“The car ran without any problems. There are a lot of points we still need to work on, but this bodes so well for the future,” said a delighted Neuville, who suffered a scare after the final stage and was forced to stop on the road section back to León with radiator and overheating issues before reaching the time control, courtesy of water and Corona beer being added to the radiator.

Welshman Elfyn Evans kept his composure and avoided becoming embroiled in a scrap with Neuville over the closing stages to confirm fourth place in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC for the M-Sport World Rally Team. “We made good progress this week and I can look forward to Portugal now.”

Martin Prokop survived a frightening moment in the marathon Guanajuatito special to bring his Jipocar Czech National Team-entered Ford Fiesta RS WRC to the finish in fifth overall. “This was a very tough rally and this result is amazing for us,” said the Czech.

Mexican Benito Guerra delighted the myriad of home fans with a sixth-placed finish. “I am really happy with this result and I am sure it will be really positive for the sponsors. I hope now that I will be able to do the rally in Argentina,” said Guerra.

Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen and Citroën’s Kris Meeke recovered well from first day woes and benefited from the Rally 2 ruling to hold eighth and ninth overall. But Meeke clipped a rock on the final stage, damaged the DS3’s steering and was forced to retire in dramatic circumstances. Hirvonen confirmed eighth position.

Norwegian driver Mads Østberg, who had led for a time on the first morning before losing second position on Saturday’s first stage, was quickest overall through Guanajuatito on Sunday morning and finished ninth in the second Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team DS3 WRC.

Ukraine’s Yuriy Protasov began the final day with a massive lead in WRC 2 over Max Rendina of Italy and the Ford Fiesta R5 WRC driver needed to maintain his concentration over the closing four stages without making mistakes to extend his lead in the championship. A broken front driveshaft gave Protasov a late scare, but he finished 10th.

Ott Tanak set some useful stage times during the day but, like Peruvian Nicolas Fuchs, the Estonian had blotted his copybook earlier in the rally and was too far behind to make a WRC 2 challenge. Mexican driver Ricardo Cordero was the highest-placed of the Group N finishers in 12th overall.

Results

Posted: May 24, 2014 3:43 PM

1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 4hr 27min 41.8sec
2. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 4hr 28min 54.4sec
3. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 WRC 4hr 33min 10.4sec
4. Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Daniel Barritt (GBR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 4hr 34min 31.1sec
5. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tománek (CZE) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 4hr 37min 36.2sec
6. Benito Guerra (MEX)/Borja Rozada (MEX) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 4hr 40min 39.4sec
7. Chris Atkinson (AUS)/Stéphane Prévot (BEL) Hyundai i20 WRC 4hr 42min 57.2sec
8. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 4hr 44min 48.6sec
9. Mads Østberg (NOR)/Jonas Andersson (SWE) Citroën DS3 WRC 4hr 53min 23.4sec
10. Yuriy Protasov (UKR)/Pavlo Cherepin (UKR) Ford Fiesta R5 WRC 2 4hr 56min 00.0sec

VOLKSWAGEN AIMS TO EXTEND CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD AS WRC SWITCHES TO MEXICAN GRAVEL

Posted: March 7, 2014 3:05 PM

Mexico’s 11th Rally Guanajuato Corona gets underway on Thursday evening in Guanajuato and is the first of six successive gravel rallies in the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship.

Volkswagen Motorsport showed in Monte Carlo and Sweden that it will be the team to beat for a second successive season, but picking a winner of the Drivers’ Championship may be a little more difficult this time. Frenchman Sébastien Ogier won in Mexico last year and went on to claim an emphatic championship victory.

Jari-Matti Latvala’s win in Sweden has given the Finn a five-point advantage in the championship after two rounds and he and Ogier should start as the favourites to win in Mexico.
“The win in Sweden was a special moment for me and has given me an extra dose of confidence,” said Latvala. “We used tests in Spain to prepare for Mexico. The scrapping of qualifying means I, as championship leader, have to be first out onto the route in Mexico. This is a handicap, but rules are rules. It could still be possible to win, but my goal is to finish in the points. A place on the podium would be great.”

Volkswagen surprised many by winning on their first visit to Mexico last year and Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen adds strength in depth to the new team with a third car in a second factory team. This is the first time that Mikkelsen has tackled the Mexican event and he will be hoping to benefit from a favourable starting position over the opening gravel stages on Friday.

The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team has a new driver line-up for Mexico this season. Ulsterman Kris Meeke impressed many with his two performances in Monte Carlo and Sweden and the DS3 WRC driver has worked on gravel notes in Mexico before. Team mate Mads Østberg had been as high as second overall before electrical gremlins ruined his challenge in 2013, but he and Meeke will be pushing for the podium on this occasion.

The French manufacturer has won six of the nine Mexican rounds of the series held since 2004 and the team is confident of a repeat performance this year.
“It won’t be the same as the last rally, where I had to get used to driving on snow,” said Meeke. “This time, it’s on gravel and should be easier because I have a fair bit of experience on this surface. Mexico requires a different set-up.

“I have worked on the videos and listened carefully to advice from Mads and the team. The drop in power output could be an advantage for me because I have experience competing in cars with normally aspirated engines. You need a slightly different style. I have a good starting position for the long first day. The aim is to score as many points as we can on the overseas events. I’d be pleased with a top five finish.”

Mikko Hirvonen has considerable experience in Mexico and finished as runner-up to Ogier in 2013. The Finn teams up with the talented young Welshman Elfyn Evans in the M-Sport World Rally Team and the Ford Fiesta R5 WRC duo will be hoping to challenge the Volkswagen Polos over the 22 Mexican gravel stages that rise to nearly 2,800 metres above sea level in the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato hills.

Poland’s defending WRC 2 champion Robert Kubica and Mexican driver Benito Guerra also drive a pair of M-Sport-prepared Ford Fiesta R5s. Czech driver Martin Prokop is also entered in a Ford Fiesta R5 running under the Jipocar Czech National Team banner.

Mexico will be a baptism of fire for the new Hyundai Shell World Rally Team. The German-based outfit collected just eight points from the first two European rounds of the series and the lack of real experience of the intense heat and altitude of the Mexican gravel stages has stacked the odds against both Chris Atkinson and Thierry Neuville from challenging for the podium in the Hyundai i20 WRC. A points’ finish is the realistic target for the Korean manufacturer. Neuville and Atkinson were third and sixth with other teams in Mexico last year.

“Mexico is a fantastic event which I really like and enjoy every time I come here,” said Neuville. “It’s also a special rally for me after the first podium of my career here last year. The main challenge is the altitude and the car losing engine power. You need to carry more speed into the corners. We drove the i20 WRC on gravel recently at a test session and I had a good feeling. It is important that we finish the event to continue our development process.”

Eight drivers are entered in the WRC 2 category, where Yuriy Protasov has a nine-point advantage over Italy’s Lorenzo Bertelli after two rallies. Ukraine’s Protasov tops the list in the absence of last year’s Mexican category winner Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, while Estonian Ott Tanak (Ford), Peruvian Nicolas Fuchs (Ford), Italian Gianluca Linari (Subaru) and Bertelli (Ford) are amongst the challengers.

The rest of the 28-car entry is made up of Mexican drivers and solitary entrants from Peru and Equador, with rally regulars Ricardo Trivino (Mitsubishi) and Rodrigo Salgado (Ford Fiesta) topping the list.

Today (Wednesday) crews complete their reconnaissance of the timed stages that will decide the outcome of this year’s Rally Guanajuato Corona 2014.

The event gets underway with a ceremonial start in Guanajuato from 20.00hrs tomorrow (Thursday) evening and this is followed by the first short Monster street stage at 20.09hrs. There are five special stages over 43km in length in a total route of 1,038.19km, off which 399.93km (39%) are competitive.

Rally Guanajuato Corona 2014 finishes in León on Sunday afternoon from 14.30hrs.

DMACK And Tänak Up For Mexican Fiesta

Posted: March 6, 2014 2:33 PM

DMACK is aiming to conquer the high altitude stages of Rally Guanajuato Mexico when the FIA World Rally Championship hosts the first gravel event of the season next weekend in Leon.

After the wintery rounds in Monte Carlo and Sweden, DMACK will unveil its gravel tyres for the first time this year as eager Estonian Ott Tänak heads the Drive DMACK World Rally Team challenge.

Tänak rejoins the DMACK squad for the opening round in his WRC 2 campaign using the Autotek-run Ford Fiesta R5. The 26-year-old, who recently became a father, made his world rally debut with DMACK at Wales Rally GB in 2011 – scoring the manufacturer’s first-ever world rally championship points.

After a season away from WRC, Tänak proved at last month’s Rally Sweden that he was quickly back up to speed and will be gunning for WRC 2 glory once the colourful event gets underway on Thursday.

Tänak will be joined by 2013 Production Cup winner Nicolas Fuchs from Peru, who won the Production category on last year’s Rally Mexico, and 2013 Citroen Top Driver runner-up Frenchman Quentin Gilbert, as DMACK’s trio of WRC 2 runners. They will use the DMG+2 gravel tyre in the nominated hard S3 compound which retains a similar construction and compound to 2013. Crews can use a maximum of 24 tyres with a soft S6 compound also available.

Because of its location, conditions and itinerary, Rally Mexico is once again set to be a tough event. Not only do the high temperatures and altitudes sap engine power, but the ultra-long stages are set to deliver a tough test of tyre durability. The competitive loops between services are long but, more importantly, each day boasts a mammoth stage where drivers will have to carefully manage tyre wear.

The compact route sees action again take place across the dirt roads traversing the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanjuato mountains with 39% of the overall distance made up of competitive timed tests.

However, in spite of the energy soaking temperatures and rough roads, Rally Mexico is one of the fun events of the season. It’s renowned for the energetic ceremonial start in the stunningly colourful town of Guanajuato – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Crowds flock from afar to watch the opening Monster Street Stage which runs through tunnels under the town.

Event Details
Based in Leon, 400km north-west of Mexico City the action kicks off on Thursday evening with a one kilometre blast through Guanajuato’s streets and tunnels. Friday’s stages take place around Guanajuato with a demanding loop of four stages repeated in the afternoon and rounded off with a double blast through Leon’s race circuit.

Saturday features a marathon 170km of competition split into two loops closer to Leon with a significant chunk of the race featured around the 53.69km Otates test.

However, Sunday’s final day could offer a last minute sting in the tail with the huge 55.92km Guanajuatito stage making up the bulk of the action. It uses sections of stages from Saturday so the third pass could be tough on both cars and tyres.

Crews will finish back at the Leon Poliforum on Sunday afternoon after 22 stages covering 399.93km.

Dick Cormack, DMACK motorsport director, said:
“Tyre management will be critical in Mexico and I think drivers need to think carefully around how they best deal with some of the long distances. Tyre allocations have dropped again this year creating more of a focus on clever management. After two events so far this year with inconsistent surfaces, Mexico brings us back to the first of six consecutive gravel events where we know our tyre is competitive and will allow us to push for WRC 2 victories.”

Ott Tänak said:
“I'm really looking forward to Mexico. There are many new things for us with a new car, team and a new DMACK tyre, but I know that we have a very good package and I'm sure we will be very competitive. I've been twice before in Mexico and I really like the roads over there. As I've never driven an R5 car before, it will take some time in the beginning to get used to it, but the plan is to get up to speed as fast as possible and fight for the top place. We had a really good rally in Sweden, as I've had a long break without driving it was a bit of a surprise to get back to speed so soon.”

NEW PIRELLI SCORPION TYRES TO MAKE GRAVEL DEBUT IN MEXICO

Posted: March 6, 2014 2:31 PM

Pirelli’s famous Scorpion gravel tyres return to the top level of the World Rally Championship for the first time in four years next weekend on Rally Mexico, round three of the global series.

Mexico is the highest and one of the hottest rounds of the WRC, based around the country’s leather capital of Leon. Pirelli will bring the hard compound Scorpion XR5 tyre and the soft compound XR7.

The XR pattern is designed for the harshest road conditions in the world, which feature particularly abrasive and aggressive surfaces. The internal structure means that the tyre is particularly resistant to rocks and other impacts: a constant feature of Rally Mexico. The sidewall has also been the focus of attention during development of the XR, with extra reinforcement guarding against cuts that can cause punctures.

The new XR is a symmetrical (non-directional) tyre, which makes each tyre interchangeable on either side of the car. The unique construction means that it works well both on hard surfaces and on loose gravel, allowing the use of sophisticated new materials in the compound that deform with the road surface to ensure optimal levels of grip even in marginal conditions.

The tread blocks on the XR are designed to increase resistance to wear and ensure excellent stability, particularly at high speed and in high temperatures. Since completing its exclusive tyre supply agreement with the WRC from 2008-2010, Pirelli has continued to intensively develop the XR tyre – resulting in the latest evolution that makes its debut on Rally Mexico, with added strength and sophistication.

On only the third event of its WRC comeback – and the first long-haul rally – Pirelli will supply six customers. Max Rendina, the Production Car Cup winner in Monte Carlo with Pirelli, will drive a Ralliart Italia Mitsubishi Lancer, while another Mitsubishi is driven by Paraguay’s Augusto Bestard. Lorenzo Bertelli (second in WRC2 in Monte Carlo with Pirelli) will compete in a Ford Fiesta R5. Other Pirelli customers are Gianluca Linari (Subaru Impreza WRX), Jorge Martinez (Subaru Impreza STI) and Ricardo Cordero (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X).

The qualities of strength, performance and durability of tyres are tested even more this year, under the latest WRC regulations that reduce tyre usage on the majority events. Just one compound is nominated per gravel event (the hard compound in Mexico) with limited quantities of a softer compound also available in case of unexpected weather.

Drivers are allowed to select from a total of 40 tyres in Mexico but can use a maximum of 20 for the 22-stage rally, plus four for pre-event shakedown. The XR5 is the prime nomination, with the softer XR7 compound, suitable for use in cooler conditions, available as the option. Only four new tyres are allowed this year at every tyre-change opportunity and there are five opportunities in 2014 compared to six the previous year. This means that the tyres need to be even more resistant than they were in previous years, without compromising the speed delivered by the latest generation of World Rally Cars. This philosophy of more performance with greater durability may seem incompatible, but it lies at the very heart of all of Pirelli’s road car products.

Pirelli’s senior tyre engineer Matteo Braga said:
“Mexico, with its high temperatures and high altitudes, presents a very tough challenge for any tyre, but we are confident of the abilities of the Scorpion XR to cope with the rocks and heat. With the cars losing up to 20 per cent of their engine power due to the altitude, this actually has an effect on the tyres, because although there is less power the cars can slide more if they do not have enough traction. The current XR is a very different concept to the tyre that was last seen in 2010, with new dimensions and a new non-directional pattern, making use of all our latest technology. It has been specifically created to respond to the needs of the most recent FIA regulations, so we are all looking forward to seeing it perform in competition.”

Rally Mexico takes place from March 6-9 and covers a competitive distance of 399.93 kilometres on mainly gravel roads.

M-SPORT SEEK NEW HEIGHTS IN MEXICO

Posted: March 6, 2014 2:30 PM

The M-Sport World Rally Team will be seeking new heights as the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) makes a return to gravel at next week’s Rally Mexico. As the Ford Fiesta RS WRCs do battle through the region’s mountainous stages, the squad have their sights firmly set on a strong result.

The Mexican fixture is renowned as one of the most vibrant events of the year, but the joie de vivre of the colourful stages mask a daunting challenge. With the route climbing over 2,500 metres through the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains, oxygen-starved air can see performance fall by as much as 30 per cent – putting additional pressure on the crews with little room for error.

Given the reduced power, even the smallest of mistakes can be dramatically unforgiving and the M-Sport crews will need to have their wits about them as they tackle a mix of fast flowing roads interspersed with more technical, twisting sections.

The event also plays host to some of the longest stages of the year. A real test of endurance, crews will encounter a mammoth stage on each full day of competition – two passes of the sweetly named ‘El Chocolate’ (44.03 kilometres) on Friday, 53.69 kilometres of ‘Otates’ on Saturday and the longest test of the rally, ‘Guanajuatito’, at 55.92 kilometres, on Sunday’s final leg.

One driver who knows how to deal with any challenge thrown up by the Mexican event is Mikko Hirvonen. The Finn claimed the runner-up spot on his last three appearances and, together with co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen, can boast more starts than any other crew in the championship – the pairing having contested the rally on eight previous occasions.
Familiarising himself with the characteristics of the proven Fiesta, Hirvonen continues to grow in both confidence and performance. Following a fourth place finish at the previous outing in Sweden, the Finn will be looking to challenge for the podium as he aims to extract further speed and assurance from the loose-surface speed tests.

By comparison, Elfyn Evans will make his Mexican debut next week as he continues his development behind the wheel of the Fiesta RS WRC. The event marks the Welshman’s third new event in succession, but the youngster is relishing the opportunity to learn from each new experience.

Evans may be lacking in familiarity when it comes to Mexico’s specialist stages, but his co-driver Daniel Barritt is something of an old hand. This will be the Lancashire lad’s fifth outing having most recently navigated Toshihiro Arai to second place in the Production World Rally Championship in 2010. Barritt’s knowledge will prove a huge benefit to Evans as he progresses alongside his experienced team mates.

Having each contested a full day’s testing in Northern Spain to rediscover the art of gravel rallying in the expected conditions, both Hirvonen and Evans are ready to face the upcoming challenges. Fully committed to their respective goals, the pairing will be keen to score some strong points for the M-Sport squad.

Mikko Hirvonen said:
“Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] and I have done well here in the past so hopefully we can continue that this year. I wouldn’t say that there was necessarily a key to doing well here. Like all events, you just need to avoid mistakes.

“The altitude makes a big difference in terms of performance. You don’t have as much power so you need to consider that and it does inevitably alter your driving. The crucial thing is to carry the speed through the corners as you can’t gain it back so easily on the straights. But as you’re trying to go flat-out through every bend, you need to be careful as sometimes that can take you by surprise.

“We’ll also see some really long stages which I enjoy. It’s a nice change as we don’t see them so often anymore. It’s a good challenge for a driver as you need to be really focused and keep concentrated, but even if you make a small mistake you have the opportunity to make it back.

“Hopefully we’ll be on the pace in Mexico. We had a good event in Sweden, but we weren’t quite there so let’s try again and see what we can do.”

Elfyn Evans said:
“This event offers another new experience. I’m not sure of exactly what to expect, but I have a good idea from the test.

“It’s important to drive a very smooth line and carry good speed into the corners as the lack of power makes it difficult to recover any time loss. For us, we just plan to drive as smoothly and as cleanly as possible – to gain the experience and gradually improve our pace throughout the weekend.

“I’ll also be tackling some of the longest gravel stages of my career. I’ve certainly never had to contend with so many long stages in a single event, but I am looking forward to the challenge. We’ve done a lot of preparation on the physical side, so hopefully that will prove effective and we can concentrate on looking after the car and setting some good splits.

“We’ll also witness some more consistent grip levels to those we have had to contend with so far this season. Our progress rate will be more constant, and it will be easier to build the pace stage by stage without having to adapt to the changing conditions.”

BACK TO GRAVEL: KUBICA TAKES ON RALLY MEXICO

Posted: March 6, 2014 2:28 PM

Robert Kubica will take on his third new rally in succession with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC next week as the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) returns to gravel for the 2014 edition of Rally Mexico.

Despite some exposed gravel at the previous outing in Sweden, next week’s adventure will be a completely new challenge as crews swap sub-zero temperatures for those as high as 30?C. The blistering heat places huge demands on man and machine alike, as do the high altitudes witnessed nowhere other than the Mexican fixture.

Stages climb over 2,500 meters above sea level which make precision driving paramount. With the oxygen-starved air reducing power by as much as 30 per cent, even the smallest of mistakes are hard to rectify and a considered recce coupled with all-out commitment on the stages are a must.

Thankfully, commitment is something Robert and co-driver Maciej Szczepaniak are not lacking. Determined to make the most of another new challenge, the RK M-Sport World Rally Team pairing will be looking to make it through all 22 stages unscathed – taking maximum knowledge and experience from the first long-haul event of the year.
The gravel tracks offer more consistent grip levels than those witnessed in the championship to date and will provide the perfect opportunity for the Formula One race winner to get more accustomed with the Fiesta RS WRC.

The Pole also has form on gravel. In his WRC 2 championship winning year, he claimed dominant victories on the loose-surface stages of Greece and Sardinia – as well as the mixed surface speed tests of Spain – and will be hoping to carry that momentum forward as he embarks on a new campaign across the Atlantic.

Having contested a full day’s testing in the mountains of Northern Spain, Robert and Maciej are well prepared for the task ahead. Simulating the power and performance expected at next week’s event, the Polish pairing are determined to achieve their goals in Mexico.

Robert Kubica said:
"From what I know, the stages of Rally Mexico are contested at very high attitudes. This means that there is a significant reduction in power which also influences the driving.

“This year there will be a lot of long, very demanding stages and I think it will be a challenging rally for a newcomer. It will be my first time on gravel with the [Ford] Fiesta RS WRC and my first time in Mexico so my aim is to finish the event with some good experience – hopefully without mistakes like those in Sweden.

“The approach is exactly the same as always. I will try to gain as much information as I can, but I also need to discover the rally for myself. Hopefully Maciej [Szczepaniak, co-driver] and I can have a smooth recce and enjoy the stages as we look to learn as much as we can.

“From what I can see, some parts of the route are very similar to the stages in Greece. I don't know how hot it will be inside of Fiesta, as I haven't yet had the opportunity to drive in such conditions, but last year I did not have any issues on the longer stages.

“Of course they are more demanding then the short stages, but I am used to being in a car for long periods of time and the races in Formula One are much longer then the stages we’ll encounter next week. The approach and the grip levels are different, but from a physical point of view I have no concerns about driving a 50 kilometre stage.

“I’m really looking forward to this new challenge and discovering these unknown stages for the first time. It’s a great opportunity to discover how the Fiesta performs on gravel.”

World Championship leaders Volkswagen face Herculean task in Mexico

Posted: March 6, 2014 2:26 PM

Gravel for the first time, high altitudes, and a welcome problem – Volkswagen face a special challenge when they line up at the Rally Mexico (06–09 March). The three Volkswagen works duos will feel gravel under their Polo R WRCs for the first time this season at the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). The teams swap the winter of Monte Carlo and Sweden for the summer temperatures of Mexico. And then there is a geographic anomaly on the WRC calendar: with altitudes on the special stages ranging from 1,832 metres above sea level to a staggering 2,781 metres, the World Championship leaders will quite literally be hoping to race off into thin air at the head of the field.

The engines lose up to 30 per cent of their performance in these conditions. And Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) as World Championship leaders, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) in second place, and Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) in fourth place in the World Championship find themselves confronted by another problem. Their positions in the World Championship standings mean they have the dubious honour of being first out onto the route. As such, they will take on the role of “street sweepers” in León, clearing the special stages of loose gravel – the scourge of good stage times – for the following cars.

“While the focus was more on driving ability at the first two WRC rallies of the year in Monte Carlo and Sweden, the material will be put to a bigger test this time around in Mexico,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “Adjusting the engine management system to cope with the extreme altitude is a fiddly job for the engineers, who must find the right balance between reliability and losing as little performance as possible. Furthermore, our driver/co-driver pairings have a Herculean task ahead of them. Their positions at the top of the World Championship mean they may – or must – open the route. Despite this huge handicap, I firmly believe that Jari-Matti Latvala, Sébastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen will provide the odd bit of magic here and there, and hopefully surprise everyone.”

Who is quicker than Speedy Gonzales? – Small miracle needed on day one

With every World Rally Car that passes, more and more of the thick layer of gravel is cleared from the special stages. This effect even continues into the second loop of special stages at the Rally Mexico. This is a clear disadvantage for those opening the route. As such, even more pressure is on the drivers and co-drivers in the Volkswagen team. The works duos will be looking to limit damage on day one of the rally with a flawless job and perfectly calculated risks. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila top the Driver and Co-Driver standings with 40 points. As such, they will be first out onto the special stages on the opening day. Their team-mates Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia will follow two minutes later. With 35 points to their name, they are currently second in the World Championship. Another four minutes later, it is the turn of Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (24 points, fourth place in the World Championship) to hit the road.

The rules regarding the starting order in the WRC were revamped ahead of the season. The first day of the rally is now always run in the same order as the World Championship standings. The order on the remaining days is according to the overall standings at the end of the previous day’s rallying. Unlike in previous years, there will be no qualifying ahead of the start of the rally.

Like jogging with a snorkel – engines toil in thin air
The performance of the 1.6-litre turbo engines in the World Rally Championship is limited using an air restrictor, in accordance with WRC regulations. The effect is similar to breathing through a snorkel whilst jogging. With altitudes of around 2,800 metres above sea level in the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains, this effect is compounded at the Rally Mexico. The higher you get, the lower the oxygen content in the air, resulting in less efficient combustion. Furthermore, the air resistance for the turbo charger is also reduced. This increases the revolution speed in this component, and only by making adjustments with the engine management system is it possible to avoid a mechanical overload. The engines consequently generate 28 to 30 per cent less power than they do at the Rally Sweden.

“The altitude at the Rally Mexico affects the engine more than any other part of the Polo R WRC,” said Dr. Donatus Wichelhaus, Head of Engine Development at Volkswagen Motorsport. “On the one hand, the air pressure drops the higher you get, which in turns results in lower oxygen content in the air. On the other hand, the air resistance in the turbo charger is also reduced. As a result, this component achieves higher revolution speeds than at any other rally. In order to guarantee stability, but still lose as little performance as possible, we used various simulations even before last year to prepare for Mexico.”

In the heart of Mexico: mine shafts, winding roads, and “El Chocolate”

The extremes at the Rally Mexico provide a distinctive, contrasting programme for drivers, co-drivers and fans alike. The pop concert feeling of the “Guanajuato Street Stage” with 80,000 adoring fans is in stark contrast with the solitude of the highlands. A short special stage of just over one kilometre is more than offset by a 56-kilometre boneshaker. The Rally Mexico is one of the most multifaceted on the WRC calendar. Three special stages are worth particular mention, purely because of their length: “El Chocolate” on Friday at 44 kilometres, the 54-kilometre “Otates” on Saturday, and “Guanajuatito” with about 56 kilometres against the clock.

The most popular spectator point comes on the “Derramadero” special stage. Among the exquisite ingredients that combine to make the final, televised Power Stage so mouth-watering are the ultra-quick winding roads, a descent of about 200 metres within just 2.5 kilometres, and the “El Brinco” jump, which sees the World Rally Cars fly through the air in spectacular fashion. And all that just four kilometres from Cerro del Cubilete, at the top of which a 30-metre tall statue of Christ marks the geographic centre of Mexico.

Quotes ahead of the Rally Mexico

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“I like the Rally Mexico. The goal for this year is obviously to repeat last season’s victory. The special stages in Mexico, some of which are very long, are always a big challenge for us. As the second car out, we start in the knowledge that the road conditions will improve with each car. My starting position is definitely better than that of my team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, but the guys behind us will have even better conditions. As such, we will have to perform as well as possible on the opening day, in order not to throw away any hopes of victory early on. One of our strengths last year was the engine in the Polo R WRC. We had fewer problems with the conditions, the thin air and the ensuing loss of performance than our rivals did. However, we all start from scratch again in 2014.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“The win in Sweden was a special moment for me, and has obviously given me an extra dose of confidence. We used tests in Spain to prepare meticulously for the forthcoming gravel rally in Mexico and the difficult conditions we will encounter there. The scrapping of qualifying means I, as the championship leader, have to be first out onto the route in Mexico. It goes without saying that this is a handicap. However, rules are rules. This is definitely outweighed by the pleasure of travelling to Mexico as the leader in the World Championship. I will be sporting about it and do my best whatever the circumstances. If everything goes perfectly to plan, it could still even be possible to win. However, that is not my main goal. We want at least to finish in the points. A place on the podium would be great.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“Sweden was a perfect weekend. We were in contention to win the rally, and second place was ultimately a fantastic result for Mikko and me. Once you have made it onto the podium, you obviously want to do it again. However, you cannot lose your sense of reality. We are now looking forward to Mexico, which is completely new territory for us. It will not be easy for us, as I have never actually competed at this rally. I was able to take part in the ‘Recce’ last season, which allowed me to gain an initial impression. My goal is the top five. I am definitely physically and mentally fresh going into the rally weekend. After Sweden, I went home and spent some time with my family and friends. I also went to New York for a weekend to relax a little. I’m ready to go again now though!”

Three questions for … Martin Hassenpflug

You are the Car Chief for World Champion Sébastien Ogier’s Polo R WRC. In order to be successful, there has to be absolute trust between the Car Chief and the driver. How long did it take you both to build up that level of trust?
Martin Hassenpflug: “It actually happened relatively quickly, as we are both about the same age. It was obviously also an advantage that we had contested the entire 2012 season together with the Škoda Fabia. Since then, there has been a blind understanding between us and we have cooperated absolutely seamlessly. That obviously pays dividends on hectic rally weekends.”

You have worked with many drivers. Can you tell us what makes Sébastien Ogier so special, and what makes him stand out from the other drivers?
Martin Hassenpflug: “Sébastien is definitely determined to win all the time. Ok, nearly all the drivers have that, but it is really extreme in his case. (laughs) When it is all or nothing and the rally is underway, he switches into winner mode – and away we go!”

You and your team pamper and look after the Ogier Polo several times every day. When was the last time you washed your wife’s car?
Martin Hassenpflug: “Actually, that happens very rarely. Every so often I will take it to the car wash, or vacuum the seats and floor at the petrol station. But that is about it. However, I have yet to hear any complaints that I have only been cleaning Séb’s Polo and not her car. After all, that is my work, while her car is private – as such, they are two completely different beasts.”

The number for the Rally Mexico: 3

Volkswagen have their sights set on win number three of 2014 in the third round of the World Rally Championship (WRC). The team from Wolfsburg, and its three driving duos, also travel to León and the surrounding area as defending champions and leaders in all three classifications (Driver, Co-Driver and Manufacturer). Last year, Sébastien Ogier not only claimed overall victory on Volkswagen’s third appearance in the World Rally Championship, but also picked up three bonus points for winning the Power Stage.

THE CITROËN DS3 WRCS REACH FOR THE SKY

Posted: March 6, 2014 2:23 PM

CITROËN AND RALLY MEXICO: WINS WITH XSARA, C4 AND DS3 WRC…

In the nine times it has been held as part of the WRC, Rally Mexico has been won by Citroën on six occasions. Between 2006 and 2012, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena enjoyed an unbeaten run in their Xsara (2006), C4 (2007 to 2010) and DS3 (2011 and 2012).

In addition to the nine-time world championship winning crew, four other driver/co-driver pairings have finished on the Rally Mexico podium with Citroën: Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti in 2004, Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia and Petter Solberg/Phil Mills as part of a memorable one-two-three in 2010 and Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen in 2012 and 2013.

WITHSTANDING THE ALTITUDE

Since 2004, the World Rally Championship teams have had to deal with a new challenge at the Mexican round of the WRC. Contested on a highly compact route around León and Guanajuato, the stages are all held on roads that are at least 1,800 metres above sea level, peaking at close to 2,800 metres.

Citroën Racing engineers therefore look for ways to mitigate the effects of the laws of physics.
“We have to adapt the engine to this environment,” explained Didier Clément, Chief Operations Engineer for the DS3 WRCs. “The engine mapping is adjusted to reduce the loss of horsepower. If we didn‘t do this specific work, we’d lose around 10% of maximum power output with every 1,000 metres of altitude.”

Two types of testing are required to prepare for this rally: bench tests for the engine and driving at a base in the mountains:
“It is difficult to replicate the conditions we’ll have in Mexico here in Europe. In the south of Spain, we are able to test at altitude, but not with the same heat or the same constraints. But the experience we have acquired in recent years helps us to prepare effectively for the rally.”

“The idea is to lose as little power as possible but also reduce the response times during acceleration,” added Didier Clément. “An engine needs air, a lot of fresh air, in order to operate really effectively. In Mexico, there is less air and it’s hot, so we need a really efficient mapping!”

MADS ØSTBERG TAMES THE CITROËN DS3 WRC ON GRAVEL

After joining the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team at the start of the season, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson have impressed in the first two winter events on the WRC calendar. Fourth on the tarmac at Rallye Monte-Carlo and third at Rally Sweden, the Scandinavian pair will be making their first competitive outing on gravel in the Citroën DS3 WRC at this, the third round of the season.

Increasingly comfortable in his new team, Mads made the most of a good test session in Spain to get to grips with the DS3 WRC on gravel.

“We are still learning,” admitted the Norwegian. “But every mile we cover in the car makes me happy. Before Sweden, I already liked how the car handled. The experience acquired on the snow and this first day on gravel have given me bags of confidence. We are working well with the team. We understand each other perfectly and we are making progress together.”

Having competed in Mexico for the last three years, his best result being fourth overall in 2012, Mads Østberg hopes to do even better this year: “Although we have to bear in mind that Rally Mexico will still be our first rally on gravel in the DS3 WRC, I’m convinced that we’ll be competitive. I’m positive. A podium finish would be an excellent result.”

KRIS MEEKE SET FOR FIRST EXPERIENCE OF RALLY MEXICO

As was the case in Sweden last month, Kris Meeke will be taking part in a new event… The Northern Irishman has never competed before in Mexico, unlike his co-driver Paul Nagle, who came to León in 2006 and 2007.

“It won’t be the same as in the last rally, where I had to get used to driving on snow,” reiterated Kris. “This time, it’s on gravel and so it should be a lot simpler because I already have a fair bit of experience on this surface.”

Kris Meeke showed he was very quick last year at the Finnish and Australian rounds of the WRC in the Citroën DS3 WRC:
“But Mexico requires a very different set-up. I have worked on the videos and have listened carefully to advice from the team and from Mads. I still have some learning to do, but I’m pleased with the set-up that we found in testing. The drop in power output could be an advantage for me because I have a lot of experience of competing in cars with normally-aspirated engines. You need a slightly different driving style and so that shouldn‘t be problem for me.”

“I’ll be concentrating on my own race,” he continued. “I know that I’ll have a good starting position for the long first day. The aim is to score as many points as we can on the overseas events. I’d be pleased with top five finish.”

A HIGH AND COMPACT ROUTE

Contested in the region of Guanajuato, Rally Mexico is an especially compact event. The total distance of the rally has been cut again this year to only 1,038 kilometres, 39% of which features timed sections. Four stages are however among the longest of the season, between 43 and 56 kilometres long. There is a seven-hour time difference with the Versailles factory (GMT-6).

The rally will get underway on Thursday, 6 March at 8.00pm local time in the heart of Guanajuato, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Following a colourful and spectacular ceremonial start, the crews will complete the very short, 1.01 kilometre-long super special stage through the streets of the city.

After spending the night in León, the first morning of the rally will feature four stages. After Los Mexicanos (9.88km), the 44.03 kilometre-long El Chocolate stage will provide the first clear indications about the relative strengths of the crews. SS4 Las Minas (15.59km) will be broadcast live before the WRCs return to León via the short Parque Guanajuato Bicentenario stage (2.6km). The same four stages will be run again in the afternoon after a 30-minutes service period, along with two runs on a super special stage held on the León Autodrome.

With the first 150 kilometres done and dusted, the drivers will attack the rally’s longest leg on Saturday, with four stages over thirty kilometres long. After the well-known Ibarrilla (30.33km), the crews will then tackle Otates and its 53.39 kilometres. The 30-minute midday service will provide a short break before the crews complete a second run on Ibarrilla. They will then take on Otatitos, a shorter version of Otates at 43.06 kilometres. Day two will end with another televised stage, El Brinco, held on an 8.25 kilometre section shared with Otates, and two laps on the super special stage. This loop alone covers some 86.06 kilometres.

The final day features four stages. After a super special stage, the length of which is doubled on the Sunday, the crews will set off on the longest stage in the early part of the season: Guanajuatito is some 55.92 kilometres long. With no service period, they will complete the rally will the Derramadero stage (11.63km) and a second run on El Brinco (8.25km), which will also be televised and serve as the Power Stage.

The rally is scheduled to finish in León on Sunday, 9 March from 2.30pm. As is the case every year, the winners will be offered a pair of cowboy boots, a regional speciality.

Another new feature for this year: the service park will no longer be located inside the León Poliforum, but rather outside it, on the course of the former city centre super special stage.

Entry List

Posted: February 25, 2014 9:29 PM

Video: Aussie Chris Atkinson confirmed for Mexico with Hyundai Shell World Rally Team

Posted: February 25, 2014 9:24 PM

Website / Details / Rally Guide

Posted: February 4, 2014 12:24 PM






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