We begin our build-up to Rally Guanajuato México [9 Mar - 12 Mar] with a look back to the 2016 event, which Sébastien Ogier arrived at fresh from victory on the opening two rounds.
Leading the championship, Ogier faced a huge challenge as road opener on the event's notoriously loose, gravel stages. For his Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, however, it was a very different story...
Thursday 3 March
Thierry Neuville streaked into an early lead after winning the colourful street stage in Guanajuato, but it was Ogier who held top spot at the end of the leg, thanks to wins on both runs of the 2.30km super special at León’s race circuit in his Volkswagen Polo R.
Friday 4 March
Latvala exploited favourable road conditions to dominate Friday's first full leg of competition and build a 32.5sec lead over team-mate Ogier. Starting the day eighth in the running order, Latvala benefited from roads swept clean of dirt by those ahead to win all four of the day's gravel stages. Ogier endured the worst of the conditions by running first through the dusty mountain roads.
Dani Sordo held third all day in a Hyundai i20 to end 1min 15.6sec off the lead but 31.1sec ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen in fourth. Early leader Neuville retired in the opening stage when he spun into a bank and broke his car's suspension.
Saturday 5 March
Latvala stretched his rally lead to 1min 35.7sec after an imperious display on the rally's longest day. The Finn won all six gravel stages to add to his clean sweep of dirt road wins on Friday, demoralising Ogier and leaving his rivals to pick up scant consolation in the short spectator stages that closed the day.
Latvala's low start position again handed him the big advantage of cleaner roads while Ogier had the hardest job as first in the start order and by the middle of the afternoon the Frenchman had thrown in the towel.
Sordo overcame a host of minor issues to hold third in a Hyundai i20. Mikkelsen had closed to within a handful of seconds of snatching Sordo’s podium place until he crashed out in the afternoon’s Otates test.
Sunday 6 March
A measured drive on the final day enabled Latvala to end Ogier's perfect start to the season with a convincing victory – the 16th of his WRC career.
The Finn headed Ogier, starting his 100th WRC round, by 1min 05.0sec after almost 400km of white knuckle driving and his success gave Volkswagen the 12th consecutive victory for its Polo R, equalling its championship record set in 2013-14.
Sordo completed the podium as he secured Hyundai's third consecutive top-three finish with its new i20 car. The Spaniard was 3min 37.9sec behind Latvala, while Mads Østberg was fourth in a Ford Fiesta RS to climb to second in the drivers' standings behind Ogier.