The Rally Guanajuato México pre-event recce gave the WRC competitors a first glimpse of the gravel stages they will drive at full speed later this week.
We got an insight into the latest condition of the stages and the challenges they will pose when we joined the WRC TV crews for their traditional camera location recce on Tuesday. Here’s what we discovered:
1) Epic Guanajuato test – SS20
This stage has been the biggest talking point since the 2016 Rally Guanajuato México route was announced. At 80km, it’s the longest stage in the WRC since 1986 and could provide a real sting in the tail for the crews on Sunday morning. If they’re not wide awake when this one gets underway, there are lots of compressions and drainage gullies that could easily catch them out. This particular compression (above) will be waiting 67.9km into the test.
2) El Chocolate test – SS4 and SS7
This 54.21km stage gets its distinctive name from the village that it passes through – reputedly the place where chocolate was first made on Mexican soil. It's also an appropriate name because of the different shades of brown dirt that form the road surface. The first 16.7km of the test are driven on new roads and the colour of the road surface changes four times in this section alone (above). This is an area where there is a lot of loose gravel on the top of the road and it also bumpy and rough in places. The crews will need to be prepared for the challenge that the different surfaces will present in this one.
3) Otates test – SS12 and SS15
This stage has been the scene of a fair amount of carnage in years gone by. Climbing to 2551 metres at its highest point, this is a stage that needs to be given the utmost respect. Jari-Matti Latvala lost concentration and took a wheel off his VW Polo when he hit a bank in 2015, while Andreas Mikkelsen, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Evgeny Novikov have all had sizeable accidents in Otates. This picture (above) shows the hole where Mikkelsen rolled spectacularly three years ago.
4) Ibarrilla test – SS11, SS14, SS20 and SS21
The section of road between 8.1km and 16.47km will be shared across four different stages this weekend – and it’s easy to see why. When the crews reach the 13km mark, the road becomes incredibly wide, open and fast for almost 2km. The crews will be flat out and will have to negotiate a couple of nasty compressions before arriving at a new man-made jump (above) that has been installed this year. It’s going to be a spectacular section of road.
5) Agua Zarca test – SS21 (Power Stage)
There are many distinctive features that can be found on Mexico’s stages: distinctively-coloured road surfaces, lush green Cacti and striking blue skies. But there aren’t many stages in the WRC where you will find genuine wigwams by the side of the road. Except for the flying finish on the Agua Zarca Power Stage (above), that is! These structures will be perfect for those that want to take refuge from the baking Mexican sun.