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Mexico - 9-12 Mar 17

Posted: March 15, 2017 9:33 AM - 4840 Hits

Round 3 - 2017 World Rally Championship

Photo: Matt Shinnors

Video & In-Car - Meeke/Nagle's final stage "Moment"

Posted: March 13, 2017 12:27 PM


Posted: March 13, 2017 12:23 PM

The Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team's Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle confirmed victory in Rally Guanajuato Corona in Mexico, despite one of the most thrilling finales to an event in the history of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Appearing comfortable at the start of the final Power Stage with a lead of 37.2 seconds, Meeke got caught out by a bump on a fast right bend and found himself in a car park full of spectators' vehicles. Quick thinking by navigator Paul Nagle outlined an escape route and the C3 WRC driver regained the track and powered through the stage finish to claim the win by just 13.8 seconds.

Clearly emotional and shell-shocked after giving his French team their first WRC win in the C3 and a reward for all their development work with the car, Meeke said: "I got caught out on a bump on a fast-right. I am a lucky, lucky boy. It's certainly one way to finish a rally. Trying to find my way out of the parked cars and a gap in the hedge. It was getting so tight. Wow.."

The Ulsterman duly sealed his fourth career WRC win after previous victories in Argentina (2015) and Portugal and Finland in 2016. The result also marked the third different manufacturer to take the top step of the podium in as many events, following M-Sport Ford's win in Monte Carlo and Toyota's success in Sweden.

Sebastien Ogier's consolation for finishing second overall in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC was the outright lead in the World Championship. His result also enabled the M-Sport World Rally Team to extend their advantage in the Manufacturers' series.

Ogier said: "Unfortunately I lost some seconds on a corner and could not win the Power Stage, but second place is a good result for the team and gives me the lead in the championship again."

Thierry Neuville had been tipped by many people to win in Mexico, but Hyundai Motorsport had not envisaged the simple fuel filter issues that plagued all three of their i20 Coupes on the opening gravel stages on Friday. Once that issue was rectified and tyre choice also came into play, Neuville was too far behind the leading duo to make am impression and the Belgian reached the finish in third place, the fastest time on the Power Stage giving him valuable bonus points.

Neither M-Sport's Ott Tanak nor Hyundai's Hayden Paddon had the pace to match the top three over the duration of the three days, but Tanak claimed one fastest stage time and both drivers were able to pick up valuable championship points for finishing fourth and fifth overall.

Both Juho Hanninen and Jari-Matti Latvala were under instructions from team principal Tommi Makinen to bring the two struggling Toyota GAZOO World Rally Team Yaris WRCs to the finish. The Finn had under estimated the development work needed to be competitive at altitude in Mexico and a viral infection for Hanninen hadn't helped matters either. Latvala used the closing stages to gather data for team engineers and, even though the duo were only separated by 0.3 seconds at the start of the final day, Latvala came through to finish sixth.

Dani Sordo lost his chance of challenging for a podium at the two super special stages on Friday evening, but the Spaniard set a couple of fastest times for Hyundai Motorsport on Saturday and was an impressive force once the i20 Coupe's early niggles had been rectified. He finished eighth and Welshman Elfyn Evans was ninth, his Mexican challenge running aground even before the start when M-Sport were forced to change the Fiesta's engine after the shakedown stage at the cost of a five-minute penalty.

There may only have been five registered WRC 2 drivers in this year's Rally Mexico but Skoda's Pontus Tidemand and M-Sport's Eric Camilli produced one of the most fascinating duels in the history of the support series. Fractions of a second separated the duo for much of Saturday after Tidemand had controlled proceedings on the first gravel stages on Friday.

The Swede managed to eke out a two-second lead to take into the final morning and a crushing performance in La Calera - where he was 22.5 seconds quicker than his rival - settled the contest in his favour and gave him the outright WRC 2 lead. "It was a great battle and a good rally for me," said Tidemand. "Jonas and the team did a great job. I had a strategy to push hard on the first stage today and it worked."

Mexico's Benito Guerra was plagued by brake problems a puncture and a general lack of kilometres behind the wheel. But he delighted the home crowds by rounding off the podium places. "This is not a bad result for me. A podium finish on my first event in WRC 2 and good points for the championship," said an upbeat Guerra.

Chile's Pedro Heller was fourth, but early engine issues sidelined Poland's Hubert Ptaszek.

Meeke/Nagle escape to Mexico victory

Posted: March 13, 2017 12:22 PM

Kris Meeke & Paul Nagle won Guanajuato Rally Mexico on Sunday despite almost throwing victory away when he crashed off the road into a spectator car park less than a kilometre from the finish.

A fourth career win seemed assured when Meeke carried a near-40sec lead over Sebastien Ogier into the final gravel road speed test in the mountains near Leon.

But just 750 metres from the end of the four-day event, a mistake plunged his Citroen C3 through a hedge and into a spectator car park.

A disoriented Meeke drove around parked vehicles urgently searching for a way back onto the road. He eventually spied a hole in the hedge, regained the track and limped to the finish with a puncture and fan safety tape trailing from his car.

The clocks showed the Northern Irishman had won by 13.8sec, ending a miserable start to the season for Meeke and his Citroen team. It was their first success of the year and Meeke leaped to sixth in the FIA World Rally Championship points.

"I got caught out on a bump after the jump at a fast right corner," said Meeke. "I'm a lucky boy. That's certainly one way to finish a rally and I didn't need that.

"I was desperately trying to trying to find my way out of the parked cars and find a gap in the hedge. A lot of things went my way....," he added.

Meeke's error left Ogier regretting a time-consuming spin yesterday in his Ford Fiesta, but second for the Frenchman enabled him to leapfrog Jari-Matti Latvala to lead the championship by eight points.

Third for Thierry Neuville, a further 45.9sec behind, was a relief for the Belgian after crashing out of the lead in the opening two rounds of the season in Monte-Carlo and Sweden. He also gained maximum bonus points after winning the final Power Stage in a Hyundai i20.

Ott Tanak maintained his consistent start to the campaign with fourth in another Fiesta, more than a minute clear of a frustrated Hayden Paddon. The Kiwi suffered several technical problems but this was still his best result of the season.

Toyota Gazoo team-mates Latvala and Juho Hanninen finished sixth and seventh. An overheating engine and brake problems on his Yaris slowed Latvala, while his Finnish team-mate suffered sickness throughout the event.

The championship returns to Europe for round four next month. The Mediterranean island of Corsica hosts the Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse on 6 - 9 April, the first pure asphalt round of the year.


Posted: March 13, 2017 12:18 PM

M-Sport World Rally Team's Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia secured their third podium in as many events at this weekend's Rally Mexico. Piloting their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC to second place, the Frenchmen have also regained the lead in the drivers' standings

Having encountered Tarmac, snow and gravel in the opening three rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Ford Fiesta has excelled - securing stage victories and podium places across all three surfaces.

Here in Mexico, the Fiesta shined throughout the field. All three Fiesta WRCs secured stage wins and thanks to a fine fourth place from Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja, the team have strengthened their lead to 36 points at the head of the manufacturer standings.

In the WRC 2 category, eric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas displayed stunning pace behind the wheel of their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta R5.

Locked in an intense battle for victory, the pairing had overturned a 25 second deficit through yesterday's stages, but ultimately had to settle for second position.

Their impressive speed, coupled with a new evolution Fiesta R5 waiting in the wings, bodes well for M-Sport's future WRC 2 endeavours.

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
"It's been another great rally for us and it's fantastic to see the Fiesta performing so strongly on all surfaces. We've witnessed asphalt, snow and gravel and we've proven to be competitive on all three.

"With another podium for Sebastien he's regained the lead in the drivers' championship; and with Ott just behind in fourth we've strengthened our lead at the head of the manufacturers' championship. It was also particularly rewarding to see all three cars setting fastest stage times once again.

"But it's not just in the main field that we've shown our strength. In the WRC 2 category, eric has been very impressive. He's been a bit unlucky at times this weekend, but when everything was working in his favour I think it's fair to say that he had the measure of everyone else.

"It's great to see him regaining his confidence, but it's also great from a team perspective with a new evolution for the Fiesta R5 waiting in the wings."


Thanks to a third successive podium in as many events at this weekend's Rally Mexico, Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have regained prime position at the head of the drivers' standings.

Despite being tasked with the arduous job of sweeping a clean line through the opening stages, the four-time World Champions didn't let the disadvantage halt their charge. Posting a string of competitive times, only the tenth car on the road could better their pace.

As the conditions became more consistent, Ogier was able to match the rally winners' speed but the damage had already been done and he had to settle for second position.

Second place in the points-paying Power Stage added to a strong points' haul - strengthening the Frenchman's championship campaign.

Sebastien Ogier (2nd) said:
"I'm really pleased with this result. Coming away from Mexico with 22 points is a great result for me and honestly I would have taken that before the rally. Opening the road on Friday, we knew that we would struggle in the loose conditions but I think we managed it pretty well.

"When the conditions become more even we were able to set the same pace as Kris but I must congratulate him also. He had a really strong drive and didn't give us the chance to make any inroads into his lead so it was a deserved victory for him."


Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja found themselves in an unusual position at this weekend's Rally Mexico - not on the podium for the first time this year!

The Estonians had been in joint second position after the spectacular opener in Mexico City before a temperature alarm saw them fall a minute adrift of the lead.

With the issues resolved for the following speed tests, Tanak may have had a less advantageous road position than his rivals but quickly found his feet and posted a string of competitive times including the fastest time through the second pass of El Brinco (SS14).

Securing fourth place overall as well as third place in the points-paying Power Stage, the pairing claimed a strong haul of points to retain their third place in the drivers' championship.

Ott Tanak (4th) said:
"We lost a lot of time on Friday so it was a shame not to be on the podium, but it was still a positive event for us. From yesterday onwards we were back on the pace and setting good times so I'm happy with that. It was a very positive rally for the team as a whole and we've got some more good points on the board for the championship which is really important."


After incurring a five minute penalty for an engine change on Thursday evening, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt were playing catch-up from the start.

Despite starting the rally in last position and having to contend with the worst of the road cleaning through the longest day of competition, the Brits climbed safely into the top-ten.

Securing three stage victories on his way to ninth place overall, the Welshman has gained a wealth of knowledge which he hopes will pay dividends on the next gravel outing in Argentina.

Elfyn Evans (9th) said:
"It's been a tricky weekend with the penalty and then having to run first on the road, but overall I think we can be pretty happy with the weekend. This was our first time on gravel with these new cars and we've completed all of the mileage with good speed and three stage victories.

"It could have been a lot worse for sure and we've collected a lot of good knowledge which bodes well for the next gravel outing in Argentina."


In the WRC 2 category, Eric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas have also strengthened their second position in the drivers' standings - leading the way before having to settle for second place behind the wheel of their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta R5.

Setting a stunning time through the first gravel test of the rally (SS4) the French pairing were 17.6 seconds faster than anyone else. Encountering some rear suspension issues throughout the remainder of the day, they fell 25 seconds adrift before mounting an almighty comeback.

Overturning the deficit, Camilli was soon back at the front and held a 6.8 second advantage after the second pass of Media Luna (SS12). Ultimately however, a wet set-up combined with a less than ideal recce through the closing stages meant that the French pairing had to content themselves with the runner-up spot.

Despite missing out on the victory, Camilli has shown impressive pace which proves both his progress on gravel as well as the performance of the Fiesta.

Eric Camilli (2nd WRC 2) said:
"I'm happy with second place but at the same time I would be lying if I said I didn't want to win. Unfortunately it wasn't to be. Pontus drove really well today and we didn't have the best recce of today's stages so it wasn't possible to do more.

"I'm still really pleased with my speed. We had a few issues on the opening day, but this rally has made it clear that we have the pace to challenge for wins on gravel - and that is really good. When everything was working well, we felt really comfortable in the car and our times were really strong.

"A big thanks to the team who have worked really hard all hours of the day. It's looking good for the future."

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT crews overcome the challenge of Mexico for a double haul of points

Posted: March 13, 2017 12:17 PM

After four days of the toughest action it has faced this year, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT has secured a points finish with both crews in the top 10 for the first time, who headed into the final day separated by just 0.3 seconds. Mexico combined the challenge of both heat and altitude, meaning that the team had to overcome the same overheating problems that affected most of the field on Friday. Each driver faced their own additional difficulties: Jari-Matti Latvala ran first on the road to sweep it clean for everyone else during the first day of proper stages, while Juho Hanninen was unwell throughout the event. At the end of the rally, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is still runner-up in the manufacturers' championship, while Latvala is second in the drivers' standings and Hanninen is 11th.

The final day contained just two stages and 56 kilometres, but they were crucial ones as the final stage was also the Power Stage, with additional driver points on offer. Jari-Matti and Juho were both targeting results on this final stage, with Jari-Matti scoring two points thanks to a fourth-fastest time.


Tommi Makinen (Team principal)
"After the amazing moments we had in Monte-Carlo and Sweden, this rally was much more the type of situation we were expecting from this year, but it still gave us a lot of satisfaction as we scored driver points with both drivers for the first time and also had to overcome a lot of difficulties to achieve that. So we are happy with the result and also with the information we obtained on what was only our first-ever gravel rally. Well done to all our drivers, co-drivers, engineers and mechanics for getting us to the finish with both cars under very tricky circumstances. What we have learned will be very useful for the future."

Koei Saga (Team Vice-Principal)
"Despite the great result obtained in Sweden, we always expected Mexico to be more challenging due to the high temperature and altitude. After our testing, where we simulated as much as we could, we believed we were well-prepared. But the challenges we faced were even tougher than expected. We experienced a problem with overheating on Friday, then thanks to the work of our engineers and mechanics, we were able to solve it by the next morning and bring both Yaris WRC crews to the finish on Sunday, having confirmed over the rest of the rally that the solutions we found were working. These experiences and lessons made both ourselves and the car grow. In that sense, this rally was really meaningful. I feel reassured that we can be stronger when we push our limits through the toughest competitions on the roads that our customers use. And this leads to ever-better cars. Thanks again to the wonderful fans from all over the world, who I was proud to meet for myself on Rally Mexico. Yo ur support means so much to us."

Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 10)
"I set myself a target of the top five, so I just missed out on that. On the other hand, I don't think that anyone could have predicted the difficulties that we all faced, so to finish sixth and score some Power Stage points as well is a real achievement, which still keeps us well-placed in both championships. The last day was actually the best day for me: we had a really good feeling with the car until we got caught out by a slippery section on the first stage, so we had a spin and lost 10 seconds. Without that, I think it could have been a really good time. All the signs of progress are there, which is the main thing. We're here to learn, and we have done a lot of that over the past four days."

Juho Hanninen (Driver car 11)
"We can take away many positive things from this rally although for me it was not as enjoyable as it could have been because I was not feeling well from start to finish. Still, I am very happy to get to the end and score my first driver points this year. It was fun to be so close with Jari-Matti heading into the final day: we started it separated by just 0.3 seconds but he was faster than me today. We will take on board many things for the future from this and move forwards as a team, which is the most important thing. On this rally I managed to avoid all the trees as well, so it's good to see that even at my age I can still learn some new things! Although I did notice that a left-hand mirror was broken, so maybe I didn't get away with it completely..."


Posted: March 13, 2017 12:15 PM

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle kept up their impressive form and (just about) held their nerve on the final day of Rally Mexico. Despite running off the road a few corners before the end of the Power Stage, the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT crew secured the C3 WRC's maiden rally win!

- The final day of the rally only featured two stages: La Calera (32.96km) and the Derramadero Power Stage (21.94km).

- As the crews left the service park this morning, light rain had started to fall. This led to the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews making different calls when it came to tyre choice. Kris Meeke went with four soft and two hard Michelin LTX Force tyres, whilst Stephane Lefebvre opted to go with six soft compound tyres.

- On the penultimate speed test, Kris Meeke claimed his fifth stage win of the weekend. He extended his lead over Sebastien Ogier by another 6.3s, whilst Stephane Lefebvre set an excellent third fastest time.

- The team looked on nervously as the crews contested the Power Stage, broadcast live on television. And there was certainly no shortage of drama! With the finishing line almost in sight, the Northern Irishman's Citroen C3 WRC ran wide on a long right-hand corner. The car ran through the hedge at the side of the road and into... a spectator car park!

- Kris managed to keep his cool, get around the parked cars and back onto the road in a few seconds. He crossed the finishing line to secure victory by 13.8 seconds!

- After something of an emotional roller-coaster ride during the final stage, there were scenes of joy and celebration in the team as Kris and Paul were welcomed as champions on their return to the Le?n service park.

- This is Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle's fourth win in the WRC, following Argentina in 2015, and Portugal and Finland in 2016. It is also Citroen's 97th win in the World Rally Championship.

Yves Matton, Directeur de Citroen Racing
"What happened in the Power Stage is almost beyond belief, even if this kind of thing has occurred before. At the time, there was some confusion as to what had happened; the onboard footage made it look like there had been a major off whereas the tracking system indicated that the car was still moving. When the car crossed the finishing line, we were absolutely thrilled and all the tension and drama just slipped away! This first win on gravel shows that the C3 WRC has some very solid foundations and that the Citroen Racing team did a good job during its development. We'll now be able to work in a slightly more relaxed manner as we look to keep improving."

Kris Meeke
"I think I might end up telling this story hundreds of times... I'm annoyed with myself for making that mistake. The car went wide after a big compression and we were very lucky. I quickly looked to get back on the road because I knew we could still win. That's the main thing: we showed the potential of the Citroen C3 WRC in securing the car's first win. I'm proud and delighted for the entire team, this result is for them."

Stephane Lefebvre
"We have picked up a lot of experience this weekend. Even today, being eleventh on the road meant I had the same grip as the leaders and I was able to get a feel for what the car can do in these conditions. Well done to Kris, Paul and the whole team; this win is a special moment for Citroen Racing."


Posted: March 13, 2017 12:13 PM

1. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) 3:22:04.6
2. Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +13.8
3. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +59.7
4. Ott Tanak / Martin Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:18.3
5. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +3:32.9
6. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4:40.3
7. Juho Hanninen / Kaj Lindstrom (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5:06.2
8. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +5:22.7
9. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +6:32.7 +8:41.8
10. Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +10:51.9


Posted: March 8, 2017 10:41 AM

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 M?kinen 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 Leon 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. Sebastien 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 Citroen 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.

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 Zocalo 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.

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing ready for Mexico's testing gravel roads

Posted: March 4, 2017 4:24 AM

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team and its drivers, Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho HAnninen, will turn to the gravel of Rally Mexico from March 9 to 12. After Latvala and his co-driver Miikka Anttilla delivered the first victory for Toyota in the FIA World Rally Championship since 1999 last time out on Rally Sweden, the team is in an upbeat mood as it looks to build on a positive opening to the debut season for the Toyota Yaris WRC. However, as Mexico offers a third different challenge in as many events, learning and car development will continue to be the priority.

Rally Mexico has been part of the WRC calendar since 2004, and is the first true gravel round of the year. It is known in particular for ambient temperatures in the region of 30C and a route that peaks at 2,737m above sea level, starving engines of air and cutting power by as much as 20 per cent.

The rally will have an extra-special beginning this year thanks to a new stage in Mexico City on Thursday night, with a big crowd expected to pack the world-famous Zocalo square for two runs over a 1.57-kilometre test. Friday's stages begin with the longest of the rally, the 54.9-kilometre El Chocolate, and end with more crowd-pleasing tests in the streets (and tunnels) of Guanajuato and the Autodromo de Leon racing circuit, which is visited again on Saturday evening before a street stage in Leon itself. The Derramadero Power Stage will conclude the action from 12:18 (GMT-6) on Sunday ahead of the finish ceremony in Leon close to the service area.

Latvala won Rally Mexico for the first time last year, while HAnninen has just one previous start there, back in 2011. They have prepared for Mexico by testing on gravel in Spain. As championship leader, Latvala will run first on the road on the opening leg, with the second and third legs to be run in reverse rally order among the leading cars.


Tommi MAkinen (Team Principal)
"The majority of our testing has been on gravel, so we can be reasonably confident of this surface as we head for Mexico, but there is one question mark: the combination of high altitude and high temperatures. Last year we tested on gravel in Spain with ambient temperatures of up to 40 degrees and the engineers have also done a lot of work on the engine mapping for altitude, but until you experience these things together for real, you never know. Since the victory in Sweden it has been incredible, but we are professionals so we keep our feet firmly on the ground. We know that difficult moments can happen even more easily than happy moments, which is why we are working harder than ever. The best news is that rallying seems really competitive at the moment with all the manufacturers in contention and setting fastest times: this is great for the sport as a whole I think."

Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 10)
"I have some very happy memories of Mexico after I won last year, but I also know some of the reasons behind it. I started with a good road position, towards the back, and I took advantage of the cleaner roads to take a big lead - while the people at the front were really struggling. So this year for me, it's going to be the other way round! In these circumstances, you have to take away what you can and I would be really happy with a place in the top five. Nothing has changed for me since Sweden, but I think this emphasises the importance of just trying to do your best wherever you can and staying consistent. If you do that, you can maybe be in a good championship position at the end of the year, even though that was not really our objective for only the first season. There's always a great atmosphere in Mexico: the fans called me 'La Bala' - which means 'the bullet' - last time, so I hope not to disappoint them this year!"

Juho HAnninen (Driver car 11)
"I've done the rally only once before, a long time ago, but I really liked it. I always feel happy on gravel and I think on Friday, with the long stages like El Chocolate, there could be a very good opportunity for me. I should have a nice starting position and I need to make the most of it. While Sweden wasn't a great rally for me personally, I learned a lot about how to be more clever on certain things in future: in particular making sure that I am well-prepared after testing. My test before Mexico was very good: we changed a few things on the car with the suspension but not very much, and I am close to having the confident feeling that I enjoyed with the car after the Monte-Carlo test. The work that the engineers have done on the engine is really impressive, I think even with the altitude it should be OK so hopefully I will not have to adapt my driving style too much."


Posted: March 4, 2017 4:21 AM

M-Sport will be chasing a Mexican Fiesta next week - when the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC makes its gravel debut at one of the FIA World Rally Championship's most vibrant events, Rally Guanajuato Mexico.

Having completed 1,470 kilometres of testing last week, the team worked to perfect set-up configurations and test durability. Known for its high rate of attrition, the Mexican fixture demands reliability as well as performance and the team have left no stone unturned in their pursuit of another strong result.

Rally Mexico might be the first official gravel rally of the season, but this unique event has an individuality which sets it apart from the more traditional loose-surface fixtures.

Contested in the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountain ranges, stage altitudes are at their highest and the Ford Fiesta WRCs will compete up to 2,746 meters above sea level.

The thinner air can see engine performance reduced by as much as 20 percent which places demands on team and crews alike. While the team work to extract 100 percent of the available performance, the crews must be note perfect - any mistakes being harshly punished as reduced power takes the engine longer to regain full speed.

If that wasn't enough, air temperatures can linger around the 30C mark with those in the cockpit as high as 50C. The event also plays host to some of the roughest terrain of the year and the crews will need to deliver a conscientious drive - especially over the second pass when the stages can become particularly rough and rutted.

The challenges are vast, but so is the enthusiasm of the Mexican supporters. Rally Mexico is renowned as one of the most colourful and vivacious events on the calendar and that will only be heightened this year with the inclusion of a spectacular opener in Mexico City - the CDMX Street Stage Presented by Michelin.

As the start of the rally moves 400 kilometres south to one of the world's largest cities, the WRC entourage will converge on the iconic Zocalo square which was featured in the opening sequence of the latest James Bond thriller, Spectre. Creating a spectacle of its own next week, Rally Mexico's opener is not to be missed with huge crowds upwards of 100,000 expected to attend.

M-Sport is currently 20 points clear at the head of the manufacturers' standings and Team Principal Malcolm Wilson is keen to see the team excel at the next challenge.

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
"We've had a fantastic start to the season but the next challenge is just around the corner as we debut the Fiesta on gravel. We completed a lot of kilometres at our pre-event test and learnt more about the car set-up which we hope will pay dividends next week.

"Of course there's no substitute for competition, and I think everyone is on tenterhooks waiting to see if we can continue the strong performance shown on the opening two rounds. I see no reason why we can't do that and, even though we'll be hampered by road position through the early stages, a podium has to be our aim.

"Rally Mexico is a real highlight for the team. We have a lot of great memories from the event and the atmosphere rivals anything else we see on the calendar. This year, with the inclusion of the first stage in Mexico City, I'm sure it will be something very special indeed - worthy of these spectacular new cars."

For the first time since 2014, Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia will not be opening the road on the first gravel event of the year. An arduous task still lays ahead for the Frenchmen as the second car on the road, but they will be free from the worst of the road cleaning.

Opening the road or not, Ogier knows what it takes to win in Mexico and the event is close to his heart having made his WRC debut there in 2008. The 2008 fixture also played host to the four-time World Champion's first points haul as a win in the Junior World Rally Championship also saw him take an impressive eighth place overall.

Since that first outing, the Frenchman has tackled the event on eight previous occasions - securing five podium finishes and three victories.

Previous starts: 8
Best result: 1st (2015, 2014 and 2013)

Sebastien Ogier said:
"I made my WRC debut in Mexico so it is always nice to come back here. We always receive such a warm welcome from the fans and they have a real passion for the sport.

"For the first time in a number of years we won't be opening the road but it will still be a big challenge. We'll be the second car into the stages so we'll still have to contend with quite a lot of road cleaning. We'll need to try to stay as close as we can over the opening day and then see what's achievable when the conditions become more consistent.

"We've had a good start to the season, but now we're going to experience something totally different. This is where we'll get a feeling for these new cars on gravel and where I'll get to experience the Fiesta's performance on this kind of surface. We had a really useful test last week with a lot of kilometres, but there really is no substitute for competition.

"It's going to be an interesting rally and I hope we can continue our good performance and continue to progress."

Rally Mexico also played host to Ott TAnak's first points haul when he piloted his Ford Fiesta S2000 into the overall top-ten in 2011, but it was in 2015 when the Estonian became immortalised in the event's history.

The Mexican fixture was where the now infamous #TitAnak originated and where TAnak's now trademark determination first inspired the hearts of rally fans around the world.

Having contested the event on five previous occasions, the Estonian knows the event well and will be hoping to continue what has been his strongest ever start to a WRC season when he and co-driver Martin JArveoja reunite in pursuit of another strong result.

Having set fastest times on both opening rounds, TAnak is revitalised and hungry for further success. Now a genuine contender for regular podiums, the Estonian will be full of confidence heading to his preferred surface at the first gravel event of the year.

Previous starts: 5
Best result: 5th (2012)

Ott TAnak said:
"There are two things that you need to keep in mind in Mexico - the heat, and the altitude. We'll head out to the event a little earlier to get used to the climate but when it comes to the stages, you need to be on it from the word go.

"The high altitude means that we have a lot less power to play with and you need to constantly have that in your mind. You need to be very clean and precise and make sure that you keep the speed up all the time.

"The stages themselves are nice and smooth, but they could become quite rough and rutted over the second pass and that makes it even more important to have a clean run. There is a lot of new aero on these cars and you don't want to lose any of it.

"We racked up a lot of kilometres during the test last week, but we'll have to wait and see how it plays out on the rally. We've not had a lot of gravel running so far this year so I think the key will be to find a good rhythm early on.

"We'll also be opening the road again and that is something I've never experienced on gravel. It's going to be an interesting rally with a lot of things to discover, but I'm looking forward to it and to seeing what we can do."

Elfyn Evans may only have two previous experiences of Rally Mexico under his belt, but the Welshman knows what this challenging event demands - securing fourth-place finishes on both outings.

Understanding the arduous nature of the Mexican fixture, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt know that a clever rally can yield results and will be looking to do just that - combining their speed with a conscientious drive behind the wheel of their DMACK-clad Fiesta next week.

In the lead-up to the event, both Evans and Barritt were at M-Sport headquarters - passing their experience to the next generation. Providing driver and co-driver training to this year's crop of Junior World Rally Championship competitors, the pairing found time amongst their own vigorous training schedules to impart some words of wisdom.

Previous starts: 2
Best result: 4th (2015 and 2014)

Elfyn Evans said:
"The first gravel rally of the year will certainly be an interesting one and I think everyone is waiting with baited breath to see what they can do. The altitude makes this a really unique event and when you combine that with the high temperatures it's a big challenge - for the crews and the cars.

"We'll need to be at the top of our game to contend with the physical demands, but we'll also need to adapt our driving style to get 100 percent of the performance. Because of the thinner air, there's a reduction in power and you need to be really smooth and not so aggressive behind the wheel.

"You've got to be so tidy at this event and keep momentum through the corners. If you scrub speed before a long straight or sequence of corners the engine doesn't have the power to carry you though and you can lose a lot of time.

"We'll have to wait and see how the conditions suit us, but I am looking forward to this one. It's an event I've done well at in the past and a clever run can deliver results - it's just a case of getting the balance between risk and speed just right."

WRC meets James Bond venue

Posted: March 1, 2017 5:56 AM

FIA World Rally Championship roars into town made famous in 007 movie 'Spectre'.

Huge crowds will pack the iconic Zocalo square to watch exciting new-era World Rally Cars fight for tenths of a second at the opening two speed tests of Rally Guanajuato Mexico, the third round of the 2017 season.

Live television will broadcast the city spectacular in the evening of Thursday 9 March (local time) to a global audience for what promises to be one of the biggest occasions in the WRC's 45-year history.

Mexico City ranks on the fringes of the world's top 10 biggest population cities and Zocalo is perhaps best known as the location for the amazing helicopter stunts which launched 'Spectre' in 2015.

The rally will build a 1.57km asphalt test in the square and surrounding streets, an area more accustomed to receiving foreign heads of state and hosting national celebrations than echoing to the sound of new-specification World Rally Cars.

It will be driven twice by all the WRC's star drivers, including championship leader and 2016 rally winner Jari-Matti Latvala and four-time world champion S?bastien Ogier, to provide a full evening's entertainment.

Afterwards cars and competitors will be transported 400km south-east to the rally base of Leon for three days of high-temperature dirt road special stages in the mountains of the Guanajuato region.

WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla said there was a massive sense of anticipation within the championship.

"Mexico City boasts a population of more than 20 million people and since the championship's launch in 1973, it's hard to identify another city event quite as spectacular as we believe this will be. I'm sure the skills of our WRC drivers will be a match for James Bond at the wheel!" he said.

Zocalo is the latest example of Rally Mexico's innovative approach. In recent years the rally has been launched with a unique underground special stage through former silver mine tunnels in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Guanajuato.

Mexico City's iconic heart beats to WRC rally rhythm

Posted: March 1, 2017 5:55 AM

The FIA World Rally Championship roars into the heart of one of the world's largest cities next month when Mexico City hosts thrilling high-speed action at a venue made famous in James Bond movie 'Spectre'.

Huge crowds will pack the iconic Zocalo square to watch exciting new-era World Rally Cars fight for tenths of a second at the opening two speed tests of Rally Guanajuato Mexico, the third round of the 2017 season.

Live television will broadcast the city spectacular in the evening of Thursday 9 March (local time) to a global audience for what promises to be one of the biggest occasions in the WRC's 45-year history.

Mexico City ranks on the fringes of the world's top 10 biggest population cities and Zocalo is perhaps best known as the location for the amazing helicopter stunts which launched 'Spectre' in 2015.

The rally will build a 1.57km asphalt test in the square and surrounding streets, an area more accustomed to receiving foreign heads of state and hosting national celebrations than echoing to the sound of new-specification World Rally Cars.

It will be driven twice by all the WRC's star drivers, including championship leader and 2016 rally winner Jari-Matti Latvala and four-time world champion S?bastien Ogier, to provide a full evening's entertainment.

Afterwards cars and competitors will be transported 400km south-east to the rally base of Leon for three days of high-temperature dirt road special stages in the mountains of the Guanajuato region.

Mexico City's mayor Miguel ?ngel Mancera has given his full support to the event and majestic colonial buildings surrounding the square will be used to host the official pre-event press conference, a media centre and drivers' relaxation room.

"We're delighted to have been invited there by the authorities in Mexico City," said rally director Patrick Suberville.

"The country is so passionate about motorsport. Presentations were held in the square when Formula 1 and the World Endurance Championship came to Mexico City, but WRC is the first to have cars actually competing there. We're very proud," he said.

The Zocalo action will be screened live on Fox Sports at 20.00 (local time) on Thursday 9 March in Latin and south America, and by the WRC's other broadcast partners across the globe. It can also be viewed live on www.wrcplus.com.

Additional live action stages will be broadcast on Saturday 11 March at 11.00 and on Sunday 12 March at 12.00 (both local times). Sunday's programme will feature the rally-closing Power Stage, with bonus points for the fastest five drivers.

WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla said there was a massive sense of anticipation within the championship.

"Mexico City boasts a population of more than 20 million people and since the championship's launch in 1973, it's hard to identify another city event quite as spectacular as we believe this will be. I'm sure the skills of our WRC drivers will be a match for James Bond at the wheel!" he said.

Zocalo is the latest example of Rally Mexico's innovative approach. In recent years the rally has been launched with a unique underground special stage through former silver mine tunnels in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Guanajuato.

That will now be driven near the end of the first full day's competition on Friday 10 March. The rally comprises 19 stages covering 370.46km before finishing in Leon on Sunday 12 March.

Promo Video: Mexico City Superspecial

Posted: February 21, 2017 6:04 AM

Entry List

Posted: February 21, 2017 5:57 AM

Rally Guide / Event Website:

Posted: December 26, 2016 4:30 AM

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