08 - 11 Mar 12
Most Recent Winner:Sebastien Loeb (2012)
Mexico hosts the first gravel event of 2012 with new stages, more competitive kilometres, a remote service halt and a monster 55-kilometre test on the final morning of the rally just some of the exciting changes to the itinerary.
But while the format has undergone several tweaks, the rock-strewn tracks, high ambient temperatures and altitudes will continue to provide the main challenge for the WRC crews on their first of two visits to the American continent during the season.
A new addition to the WRC schedule in 2004, the Leon-based event is famed for its compact route and spectacular ceremonial start in the city of Guanajuato, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The start regularly attracts thousands of fans that will again get to savour an extra treat this year with the Guanajuato Street Stage.
Measuring a little more than one kilometre in length, the stage will run through tunnels and high wall-lined cobbled streets. Guanajuato will also provide a remote service during Friday’s opening day, a first for Rally Mexico.
But it’s the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains that will continue to 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. The altitude has its downside, however, as the engines struggle to breathe in the thin air and suffer a drop in power of approximately 20 per cent. The road surface is dry and sandy, but with rocks getting pulled onto the stages caution is very much the watchword.
Like Guanajuato, Leon will also host a street stage on a temporary course close to the indoor service park at the city’s Poliforum. A superspecial at Leon’s racing circuit will be also used five times.
The route changes have increased the total competitive distance from the 364.81 covered in 2011 to 430.37 in 2012 with the number of stages rising from 22 to 25.
Aside from the various route changes, another intriguing prospect will be the San Jose de Llanos qualifying stage. Scheduled for the morning of Thursday March 8 the fastest WRC drivers over the 4.75-kilometre all-gravel test will be able to select their starting positions for Friday’s loose-surface stages as part of a regulation change for 2012.