Driv­ers set for test to ri­val Acrop­o­lis and Sa­fari of old with lengthy Mex­ico stage

Motor Sport News - - Mexico Preview -

This week’s Rally Mex­ico will pro­vide one of the tough­est chal­lenges in the mod­ern era of the World Rally Cham­pi­onship, cour­tesy of a se­ries of long, rocky and hard-baked stages.

In the ab­sence of events like the Sa­fari, Acrop­o­lis and the Cyprus Rally, the WRC is short on roads that test the strength of the car and the adapt­abil­ity and phys­i­cal en­durance of the crew. Rally Mex­ico and Rally Italy have stepped for­ward and are vy­ing for the man­tle.

Rally Mex­ico is about much more than that al­ready in­fa­mous long stage, with El Choco­late – the de­ci­sive test where Se­bastien Ogier used two soft tyres last sea­son – has been length­ened to al­most 34 miles, mak­ing it all-but im­pos­si­ble for a re­peat per­for­mance. The crews do that twice on Fri­day. Satur­day kicks off with 18.88 miles of Ibar­illa be­fore two runs through Otates, with com­par­a­tively short stages through El Brinco and Agua Zarca in be­tween.

And then Sun­day. Out of ser­vice at 0715hrs, the first car starts Gua­na­ju­ato at 0803hrs and isn’t ex­pected to be out much be­fore nine.

Volk­swa­gen driver Jari-matti Lat­vala has stud­ied the map of the sea­son’s long­est stage, which com­prises the roads for the Gua­na­ju­atito, Der­ra­madero and El Brinco stages.

He said: “The first half of the stage is quite easy, it’s the se­cond half where it will be more of a chal­lenge. We start on a very fast open road, then at a junc­tion the road gets wider and even faster. Then we have a slower, more medium-speed sec­tion that gets quicker again, but more tech­ni­cal as well. This is the place where there are some high-speed jumps. The stage is chang­ing quite a lot in the rhythm and that’s why I think it won’t be quite as tough as it might be. If we were do­ing 80 kilo­me­tres in the same rhythm all of the time, it would feel like a re­ally long stage.

“But in the first 10 or 20 kilo­me­tres, you will have to work very hard not to over­drive.”

Rally Mex­ico di­rec­tor Pa­trick Su­berville be­lieves the chal­lenge this year’s route poses is just what he was af­ter.

“We want a fin­ish to re­ally mean some­thing to ev­ery­body from Se­bastien Ogier to the pri­vate guys at the back,” he said. “You have to earn it on th­ese tough roads.”

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