14 May 10
Mexico isn't known as a hotbed of rallying talent but Michel Jourdain is one driver desperate to break the mould.
A winner in Champ Car and a former NASCAR regular, Jourdain made his rally debut on Mexico's world championship counter back in March. But despite his celebrity in his homeland, the 33-year-old insists the outing was far more than a simple publicity stunt.
Instead it was a prelude to a six-event Production Car World Rally Championship campaign, which kicked-off on Rally New Zealand earlier this month. Although his debut in the Group N-based class ended in retirement, Jourdain plans to be in the WRC for the long term.
"If things go well the plan is for a three-year programme," says Jourdain. "We've got six races in the [Production] championship and we'll also try and do a few races in the Spanish championship because I need to drive as much as possible to get experience."
Despite his circuit racing background, Jourdain was exposed to rallying from an early age. "My father and uncle raced a lot but they also did some rallies in Mexico and I always wanted to give it a try," he says. "I did the Baja 1000 and came close to doing Rally Mexico a couple of times but it didn't quite work out due to things I was doing in racing."
Jourdain will drive a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX under the Nextel Televisa Deportes World Rally Team banner this season. The deal will result in the WRC being shown on Mexican television. "It's good exposure but it also creates the interest [in rallying]," says Jourdain. "They are not sponsoring me but they have helped me with contacts and publicity."
Jourdain is under no illusions that the transition from circuit racing to rallying will be a tough one as he found out when he crashed in New Zealand.
"I know from doing the Bajas in Mexico that you can't underestimate how tough this kind of racing is," says Jourdain. "I'm realising how important pacenotes are going to be and how important getting the right technique is. I found in Mexico there was a lot of pressure and a lot of expectation but I am not looking at the results for now. I need to improve my driving and learn the rallies by finishing them because the more kilometres the better. Certainly I'm not going to learn anything by crashing."