Tens of thousands of fans packed the historic streets of Guanajuato tonight to generate a crackling atmosphere for the start of Rally Mexico.
Music and dancing filled the town at the colourful start ceremony for this third round of the FIA World Rally Championship, after which competitors immediately tackled the opening special stage.
The 1.01km test threaded through underground tunnels built by silver miners in the 1600s before emerging onto narrow streets lined by enthusiastic fans.
As championship leader for the first time, Jari-Matti Latvala led the field into the stage but Volkswagen team-mate Sébastien Ogier emerged fastest by 0.3sec in his Polo R.
“It was a great feeling driving through there with so many spectators. It’s always slippery here and you have to be careful – no risks at all tonight,” said the Frenchman.
A remarkable second was Estonia’s Ott Tanak at the wheel of a WRC 2 category Ford Fiesta R5. He was a 0.1sec clear of Andreas Mikkelsen’s Polo R, with Kris Meeke’s Citroen DS3 and Latvala completing the top five.
There were early problems for Hyundai debutant Chris Atkinson whose i20 stopped just 100 metres after the start. “I don’t know what happened but we reset the car and it started again,” explained the Australian who dropped more than 20sec.
Tomorrow’s leg contains 10 more stages covering 148.62km. Most are in the mountains east of León, but the day ends with two passes through a super special stage at the city’s race circuit. The opening Los Mexicanos stage starts at 08.32.