After kicking off with two wintry events, the action in the 2013 World Rally Championship heats up for round three, when the teams travel to the dusty tracks of Rally Guanajuato Mexico and the first of a run of six consecutive gravel rallies.
While the rally’s format has undergone several changes this year, the rock-strewn stages, high temperatures and high altitudes will continue to provide the main challenge for the WRC crews on their first of two visits to the American continent in 2013.
The rally is once again based in Leon but gets underway on Thursday 7 March with a spectacular start ceremony in the UNESCO World Heritage City of Guanajuato.
Each year tens of thousands of enthusiastic spectators flock to watch the show, and one of the highlights of the season that follows - a night-time super special run on the narrow cobblestone streets and through the old silver mining tunnels that run under the city.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains host the bulk of the stage action. The high-altitude tests make for spectacular viewing with a mixture of mountain peaks and flat open valleys. But altitudes in excess of 2,600 metres have a downside, however, as the engines struggle to breathe in the thin air and suffer a drop in power of up to 30 per cent.
The road surface on Rally Mexico is dry and sandy, but with rocks getting pulled onto the stages caution is very much the watchword. And with four stages of 30 Km, two stages of 42 Km, and one stage of 54 Km, this is a physically demanding event for drivers.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Mexico’s arrival into the FIA World Rally Championship and, to celebrate, organisers have introduced a few tweaks to the format.
Two new stages have been added. The first is a 2.16-kilometre sprint through Guanajuato’s Bicentennial Park to be run on Thursday night, straight after the Street Stage in Guanajuato. The second is the longest of Friday’s competition - a 30.57km monster that goes by the sweet sounding name of El Chocolate.
As well as introducing the new stages, organisers have streamlined the four-day rally route. The event still features almost 400km of Special Stages but the liaison distance has been reduced by 15 per cent to 631km. Organisers claim that this year’s 38 per cent ratio of stage to liaison distance give this rally the most compact and efficient route in the history of the sport.
The event also counts as the third round of the FIA WRC 2 Championship.
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