SPECTACULAR GUANAJUATO START AND STREET STAGE AWAIT
RALLY GUANAJUATO MÉXICO DRIVERS ON THURSDAY EVENING
- Toyota Gazoo Racing and Ott Tänak aim to defend championship leads on Mexican gravel
LEÓN (México): The 16th Rally Guanajuato México gets underway with a spectacular ceremonial start and short street stage on the narrow cobbled roads of Guanajuato on Thursday evening.
One of the most famous start locations in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) attracts thousands of spectators each year and has become an iconic hub of excitement, prior to the meat of the competitive action switching to the brutal gravel roads and notorious special stages through the surrounding Sierra de Lobos hills on Friday.
Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak arrives in León aiming to defend a seven-point lead over Thierry Neuville in the Drivers’ Championship, while Toyota has a solitary point advantage over Hyundai in the Manufacturers’ contest. Cooling issues plagued the Yaris WRC on its last two visits to México, but the team has worked hard to alleviate those issues and the performance improvements in Turkey last September were a case in point.
The Mexican gravel stages always seem to throw up a surprise and six-time World Champion Sébastien Ogier will be aiming to give Citroën an eighth win in the event since it joined the WRC in 2004. The Frenchman has fond memories of this rally: he achieved a JWRC class win on his Mexican debut in 2008 and has now won the event outright on four occasions (2013-2015 and 2018).
Ogier said: “We had a good two days testing on roads that were fairly representative of the kind of stages we’ll see this weekend. After a tough Rally Sweden, I can’t wait to get started. The stages are beautiful, but you do need to be careful on the afternoon loop when it’s warmer. The second passes are always hard on the cars with the altitude, not only with reduced horse power, but also you run the risk of cooling issues.”
Tänak is running first on the road for Friday’s gravel stages, but that may not necessarily prevent him from winning a second successive rally. Ogier won in both 2013 and 2015, after starting first on the road, and Tänak is upbeat: “I believe it is possible to win every rally. Running first is not the easiest place to be to take the win. The main aim is to score points, but I intend to use the opportunity to push for the win if it is possible.”
While Tänak, Neuville and Ogier press on with their world title aspirations, 2017 event winner Kris Meeke will be hoping to improve on his two sixth-placed finishes with Toyota on the first two rallies of the season and his 2016 rally-winning team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala is due a little better luck as well.
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team hopes rest on the shoulders of Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen and Neuville’s challenge with the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team is supported by a return to WRC action for Spaniard Dani Sordo alongside Norwegian driver Andreas Mikkelsen.
Ogier’s team-mate Esapekka Lappi completes the list of 10 World Rally Car entrants in the second of the Citroëns.
Poland’s Lukasz Pieniazek has a perfect opportunity to close the gap on England’s Gus Greensmith Finland’s Kalle Rovanperä and Norway’s Mads Østberg in the fight for the WRC 2 Pro Championship. Only the Pole and his co-driver Kamil Heller have made the trip to North America and claiming a finish is the goal for the Ford Fiesta R5 driver. The event is the first for the Pole outside Europe.
Benito Guerra has an excellent opportunity to give the host nation a win in WRC 2, a category for privateer drivers that is currently led by Norway’s Ole Christian Veiby after two rounds. Guerra wheels out one of two Škoda Fabia R5s in the WRC 2 section. He faces competition from Bolivia’s Marco Bulacia in a similar car and the Fords of the Chilean brothers, Pedro and Alberto Heller.
Eighteen-year-old Bulacia returns to the WRC for the first time since last year’s Rally de España, while Alberto will be hoping to follow up his category win and eighth overall in Australia last November.
There are three further R5s on the entry list, although Ricardo Triviño’s Škoda, the Citroën DS3 of Ricardo Cordero and the Ford of Irishman Barry McKenna are not registered as P2 entries.
A three-way tussle for National NR4 category honours will be fought out between Colombia’s Julian Jaramillo (Subaru) and the Mexican Mitsubishi Lancers of Oscar Uribe and Javier Ortuño.
Canada’s Jason Bailey and Boris Djordjevic and Lithuania’s Deividas Jocius wheel out a trio of Ford Fiesta R2s at the rear of the field.
This year’s event features 21 special stages and 313.87 competitive kilometres in a route of 1,002.49km. There are only minor changes to the stages that were used in 2018. The El Chocolate special that rises to over 2,700 metres above sea level is the main focal point for Friday and is run twice and there are the customary street stages in León and side-by-side racing at the city’s race circuit.
Saturday is the longest day of the event and features an extended Otates special of 32.27km and a revised El Brinco test where the jump has been replaced by a man-made ramp in a dry reservoir. Sunday’s action features the new Mesa Cuata special that utilises a section of El Chocolate and the traditional Power Stage finish on the Las Minas stage.
With two days of stage reconnaissance completed on Wednesday, tomorrow (Thursday) marks the start of the event at the end of a hectic day’s schedule that gets underway with the customary 5.31km shakedown stage for teams from 10.00hrs at Llano Grande, the stage finish located just 16.15km
from Rally Campus León.
Championship leader Ott Tänäk, World Champion Sébastien Ogier, Elfyn Evans and Dani Sordo will then be joined at the pre-event press conference (14.15hrs) by WRC 2 Pro entrant Lukasz Pieniazek, local hero Benito Guerra and Chile’s Alberto Heller, prior to a pre-start holding area in the nearby automotive town of Silao.
The ceremonial start follows in the centre of Guanajuato, adjacent to Teatro Juárez and the renowned Alhondiga de Granaditas museum, from 19.58hrs.
The nearby opening Street Stage in Guanajuato has been shortened to just 1.14km and gets the competitive action underway along the narrow, slippery roads through the silver mining tunnels of the historic UNESCO World Heritage Site. The first car is due on the special at 20.08hrs with the action being televised live in México.
2019 Rally Guanajuato México – leading starters:
- Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Citroën C3 WRC
- Teemu Suninen (FIN)/Marko Salminen (FIN) Ford Fiesta WRC
- Esapekka Lappi (FIN)/Janne Ferm (FIN) Citroën C3 WRC
- Kris Meeke (GBR)/Sebastian Marshall (GBR) Toyota Yaris WRC
- Dani Sordo (ESP)/Carlos del Barrio (ESP) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
- Ott Tänak (EST)/Martin Järveoja (EST) Toyota Yaris WRC
- Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Toyota Yaris WRC
- Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
- Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Scott Martin (GBR) Ford Fiesta WRC
- Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Anders Jaeger-Amland (NOR) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
2019 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers – positions after round 2:
- Ott Tänak (EST) 47pts
- Thierry Neuville (BEL) 40pts
- Sébastien Ogier (FRA) 31pts
- Kris Meeke (GBR) 21pts
- Esapekka Lappi (FIN) 19pts
- Sébastien Loeb (FRA) 18pts
- Elfyn Evans (GBR) 13pts
- Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) 12pts
- Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) 10pts
- Gus Greensmith (GBR) 6pts
2019 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers – positions after round 2:
- Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 58pts
- Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT 57pts
- Citroën Total WRT 47pts
- M-Sport Ford WRT 30pts
2019 FIA WRC 2 Pro Championship – positions after round 2:
- Gus Greensmith (GBR) 40pts
- Kalle Rovanperä (FIN) 36pts
- Mads Østberg (NOR) 25pts
- Luzasz Pienazek (POL) 12pts
- Eerik Pietarinen (FIN) 0pt
2019 FIA WRC 2 Championship – positions after round 2:
- Ole Christian Veiby (NOR) 40pts
- Yoann Bonato (FRA) 25pts
- Adrien Fourmaux (FRA) 18pts
- Emil Lindholm (FIN) 18pts
- Johan Kristoffersson (SWE) 15pts
- Rhys Yates (GBR) 13pts