Rally Mexico set to break new ground

Rally Mexico set to break new ground

09.03.2017: ....with ambitious start and stage in downtown Mexico City on Thursday RALLY GUANAJUATO CORONA 2017, March 9-12, 2017

....with ambitious start and stage in downtown Mexico City on Thursday


RALLY GUANAJUATO CORONA 2017, March 9-12, 2017
2017 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3



•    Neuville claims fastest time in Shakedown stage; Ogier and Meeke second and third




Weeks of meticulous preparations and complex logistics will be put to the test when the 14th Rally Guanajuato Corona gets underway in downtown Mexico City for the first time on Thursday afternoon.



With all pre-rally formalities and the traditional shakedown stage completed in and around León on Wednesday, all attention now turns to the start ceremony and opening special stage in the Mexican capital before the traditional gravel action becomes the focus over the weekend.



The 5.31km shakedown stage at Llano Grande was moved to late on Wednesday afternoon and defending World Champion Sébastien Ogier set the target time of 3min 47.5sec in his Ford Fiesta WRC after completing three passes through the stage. Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville eclipsed that time when the results were updated with a fastest run of 3min 45.8sec and Kris Meeke slotted into third at the expense of Jari-Matti Latvala. 



The fastest two Shakedown drivers then attended the traditional ‘Meet the Crews’ interview session in the Rally Campus Service Park. The session was closed to spectators, but around 90 children from a local orphanage and several handicapped children attended to get up close and personal with the drivers as part of the ongoing 2017 Health Rally. A torrential rain shower had passed over the Service Park in León while the Shakedown stage was in progress.



Jari-Matti Latvala of the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team will have the dubious responsibility of running first on the road over the opening leg, courtesy of the fact that the Finn holds a four-point lead over M-Sport’s Sébastien Ogier in the championship standings.



Both drivers are likely to lose considerable time over the early gravel sections on Friday morning, as they perform road surface sweeping duties. That handicap should enable the likes of Hyundai Motorsport’s Hayden Paddon, Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville and Kris Meeke and Stéphane Lefebvre of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team to take advantage. Citroën has made a subdued start to the season, but much of the testing with the C3 WRC has been carried out on gravel and the drivers are sure to benefit from a useful test in Spain last month.



Estonian Ott Tanak has made a solid start to his campaign for WRC honours in a Ford Fiesta, although the Estonian has mixed memories of his previous two visits to Mexico.



 He finished sixth overall last season with former co-driver Raigo Molder, but made world television headlines in 2015 when his Ford plunged off the track into a lake and was completely submerged. Even more remarkable was the work carried out by his team to ensure that the shaken driver was able to start the final day and reach the ceremonial finish.



“We need to keep in mind the heat and the altitude. We have a lot less power to play with and you need to be very clean and precise and make sure that you keep the speed up all the time,” said a focused Tanak.



Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen and Swede Pontus Tidemand are the early leaders of the competitive FIA WRC 2 Championship, after taking a win apiece in Monte Carlo and Sweden. Only Tidemand, however, has made the trip to North America. He has an excellent opportunity to move clear in the points’ standings and give the Skoda Fabia R5 a third successive victory.


Eric Camilli had a baptism of fire in a World Rally Car on gravel 12 months ago with M-Sport, but the Frenchman has replaced Elfyn Evans in WRC 2 this year and will be hoping to build upon his current third place in the championship. Camilli said: “I remember the atmosphere last year was amazing, the fans were incredible and there’s a real passion for rally. I made a lot of progress last year, but I still don’t have a massive amount of experience on gravel.”


Further WRC 2 competition comes from Poland’s Hubert Ptaszek, Chilean Pedro Heller and Mexican driver Benito Guerra.


Rally Mexico is also the opening round of the FIA NACAM Rally Championship and several drivers will take part alongside the WRC drivers until the close of play on Saturday evening after 17 timed special stages.


The series also features a second event in Mexico next month and further rounds in Canada, Costa Rica and Venezuela. Mexican Ricardo Trivino is the defending champion and both he and last year’s third-placed driver Miguel Medina feature on a start list that includes additional entrants from Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Canada and the USA.

 

- Neil Perkins, photo WRC

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/rally-mexico-new-ground---161616.html

09.03.2017 / MaP

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