As the mountain roads through the Sierra Madre play host to the third round of the season at Rally Guanajuato Mexico next week, M-Sport young guns, Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tänak, will be looking to secure another strong result for the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team.
Contested over more than 400 competitive kilometres, Rally Mexico will mark the first of eight gravel rallies in the 2012 calendar. Since its inclusion in the World Rally Championship (WRC) back in 2004, the South American event has become a firm favourite with fans and drivers alike.
With five of the 24 stages Super Specials and an opening street test through the cobbled streets and flood-lit tunnels of Guanajuato itself, the rally boasts some spectacular viewing with the remaining tests challenging each crew’s speed and endurance over some of the WRC’s most challenging stages.
In stark contrast to the sub-zero temperatures of last month’s Rally Sweden, drivers and machinery will have to endure soaring temperatures in the region of 30˚C. Reaching altitudes of up to 2737m above sea level, the event also places huge stress on the engines. With power levels dropping by almost 20%, M-Sport’s talented youngsters will be looking to utilise their past experience of the conditions as they aim to secure the Cumbria team’s third place in the manufacturer standings.
Fresh from his second consecutive fifth place last month, Novikov will be keen to do one better next week as he challenges the top drivers for his best ever WRC finish. Last year’s Rally Mexico was bitter sweet for the young Russian who had been fighting over fourth place with Ford factory driver Jari-Matti Latvala before an overheating engine forced his retirement.
Working on perfecting their pacenotes for the 2012 edition, Novikov and regular
co-driver Denis Giraudet will be looking to secure some top stage times as they chase their first podium behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Tänak and co-driver Kuldar Sikk had their first experience of Rally Mexico last year when they contested the gravel stages in their MM Motorsport Ford Fiesta S2000. Despite suffering a roll on the twisty downhill section of Day 2, Tänak set two fastest stage times to claim the final podium position in the S-WRC.
Returning with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Tänak will be looking to continue what has been an educational season for the youngster thus far. Showing some impressive pace, Tänak claimed his first WRC stage wins on the snow-covered stages of Rally Sweden last month and fans can expect flashes of the same speed as the Estonian embarks on what will be his first competitive 2012 outing on his preferred gravel surface.
Evgeny Novikov said:
“I am really looking forward to [Rally] Mexico. We did the rally in 2011 and I really enjoyed driving the stages. We’ve had no pre-event testing but we’ll be working on improving our pacenotes from last year so that we are in the best possible position going into the event.
“I hope we can have a good rally and improve on fifth place. That’s my aim and we’ll be flat out from the start to achieve this.”
Ott Tänak said:
“I’m feeling really good ahead of [Rally] Mexico – and I’m hoping we’ll have some nice weather and lots of sunshine! We competed in Mexico last year and I really like the stages but first priority for us will be to make sure we complete all of the stages. We missed a day last year, so it is really important for us to get a good knowledge of all of the stages this time around.
“I completed some gravel testing in the UK after Sweden and had a really good feeling in the car, but we won’t have had any specific altitude and temperature testing – just the sauna!
“For us, the main aim is to get some good experience of the stages. For sure it is always good to score some strong points, and if the feeling is good, we can push the pace, but the main thing for us is to finish the rally.”