Third round of 2012 World Rally Championship will also serve as a first gravel rally of the season, putting crews through some very demanding challenges. After two european events in Monte Carlo, or rather France, and Sweden, WRC made it’s way across the Atlantic to visit hot and dusty Mexico. Very warm weather and rough stages are coupled with high altitude in some sections, so cars and crews will need to adapt in order to keep concentration and speed.
Rally headquarters is once again based in the town of Leon with stages set in the surrounding area and neighboring city of Guanajuato, host to the opening city stage which will be televised live this year.
Another important factor in Mexico is the length of stages – crews will really have to distribute their stamina carefully in order to endure monster stages – most notably Guanajuatito, which despite it’s name covers over 54 kilometers. That’s 54 kilometers of flat-out driving and co-driving – it may not sound like that much, but next time you cover 50 or more kilometers on a rough gravel road, try to imagine doing that at racing speed.
Very popular subject in Rally Mexico previews is the altitude of some of the stages. At over 2000 meters above sea level engines are expected to suffer in thinner air, losing up to 20% of the power. This will have an interesting effect on the crews as well, forcing them to be very careful about their pacenotes, because cars will be slower and weaker than usual, so some of the pacenotes might end up being “too fast”.
Both factory teams have very strong lineup of drivers, although Sebastien Loeb and Jari-Matti Latvala have slight advantage over their team mates Mikko Hirvonen and Petter Solberg. Both Hirvonen and Solberg have no previous experience of driving their new cars on gravel and they will rely on knowledge acquired during recent test sessions in Spain. Shaped to provide interesting combination of maraton stages and very fast sections together with high temperatures and rough terrain, Mexico will undoubtedly be real challenge for all crews. Personally, I’ll keep an eye on WRC returnee Chris Atkinson, who will compete alongside Ken Block in Monster WRT backed Fiestas.
Finally, let’s not forget that this year gravel rallies feature so called Qualifying Stage. Concept was first tested in Sweden and it worked quite good, despite some complaints by lower positioned drivers – complaints which were noted by FIA and will be discussed further. Based on the results of Qualifying Stage crews will get the chance to select their starting position for following leg of the rally, thus eliminating the infamous tampering with the results. If Sweden’s experiences are anything to go by, we can expect green themed Mini and Paulo Nobre heading the proceedings once again.
In total, crews will cover 1173,11 kilometers, with 407,87 kilometers of special stages, 24 of them. Rally begins on Thursday, 08.03. with street stage in Guanajuato. First proper stages are scheduled for Friday, 09.03.
Ceremonial Start 20:00 SS1 DC Shoes Guanajuato Street Stage 1.05 20:09
Friday 09 March 2012 Stage Stage Name Km Time Service at Poliforum (15 min.) 07:00 SS2 El Cubilete 1 22.12 08:08 SS3 Las Minas 1 15.21 09:06 SS4 Los Mexicanos 1 09.76 09:47 SS5 Ortega 1 23.69 10:08 Service at Poliforum (30 min.) 12:13 SS6 El Cubilete 2 22.12 13:36 SS7 Las Minas 2 15.21 14:34 SS8 Los Mexicanos 2 09.76 15:15 SS9 Ortega 2 23.69 15:36 SS10 Monster León Street Stage 1 01.23 17:24 Service at Poliforum (45 min.) 17:41 SS11 Super Special 1 02.21 20:13 SS12 Super Special 2 02.21 20:18
Saturday 10 March 2012 Stage Stage Name Km Time Service at Poliforum (15 min.) 06:00 SS13 Ibarrilla 1 29.90 06:54 SS14 Otates 1 41.88 08:12 Service at Poliforum (30 min.) 09:57 SS15 Ibarrilla 2 29.90 11:06 SS16 Otates 2 41.88 12:24 Service at Poliforum (30 min.) 14:09 SS17 Comanjilla 1 17.91 15:30 SS18 Super Special 3 02.21 16:45 SS19 Super Special 4 02.21 16:50 SS20 Comanjilla 2 17.91 17:23 Service at Poliforum (45 min.) 18:38
Sunday 11 March 2012 Stage Stage Name Km Time Service at Poliforum (15 min.) 08:30 SS21 Super Special 5 04.42 09:30 SS22 Guanajuatito 54.76 10:33 SS23 Derramadero 11.51 12:06 SS24 VW Power Stage 05.75 13:18 Finish Podium 15:30