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