For the first time since 2006 we can say with absolute certainty that it won’t be Sebastien Loeb. The Frenchman, who has won the last six WRC rounds in Mexico, hasn’t chosen this rally to be one of the four he will contest in his retirement year.
Which leaves us with 13 World Rally Car drivers all trying to fill the vacant position. You can read more about the entry list by clicking here, but for now here are our tips for outright victory:
Going on past form, top of the list is Citroen's new team-leader Mikko Hirvonen, the man who finished runner up to Loeb on the two most recent rallies in Mexico. Hirvonen knows he has some big boots to fill, but is treating Loeb’s departure as the beginning of a new era. “I feel full of positive energy and I can’t wait to show everyone that I can win,” he has said. Well, now’s his chance.
Most likely, however, Hirvonen will face a tough challenge from the championship’s new sensation – the Volkswagen powered Sebastien Ogier.
Ogier has a good record in Mexico, winning the J-WRC class on his WRC debut in 2008, taking third in a Citroen C4 World Rally Car in 2010 and finishing eighth in a Skoda Fabia S2000 last year. Of course we don’t yet know how his new Polo R will fare on gravel, but as this is the surface on which most of the WRC rallies are staged, it’s fair to assume that Volkswagen is well prepared. Also, as a new manufacturer, Volkswagen is the only one to have benefitted from a test in Mexico last year.
Hirvonen’s Citroën Total Abu Dhabi team-mate Dani Sordo is also hungry for success. Starving, in fact. The Spaniard will make his 100th WRC start in Mexico and is still looking for that elusive first win. He says he wants to ‘put this right’. Perhaps the absence of Loeb will give him the extra push he needs?
At the wheel of Volkswagen’s second Polo R, Jari-Matti-Latvala is also in winning contention. With less seat-time than Ogier, Latvala is still playing catch-up as he settles in to the car, but if he can get the Polo handling to his satisfaction early enough he can be as fast as anybody.
Ford hopes are likely to ride with Mads Ostberg and Evgeny Novikov. Having secured a fifth and fourth place finish on his two previous visits to the Mexican event, Fiesta RS driver Mads Ostberg is eyeing a podium this week. Novikov meanwhile will have the advantage of his experienced co-driver Ilka Minor who won Rally Mexico alongside Manfred Stohl in 2009 when it was not a round of the WRC.
Finally, there’s former Subaru factory driver Chris Atkinson who will drive a Citroen DS3 as stand-in for absent Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT driver Khalid Al Qassimi. Atko was a stage winner in Mexico last year and, as he seeks a more permanent return to the series, he'll be out to prove his ability as a top-flight driver.
Next page: On this rally last year, tyre facts