LEÓN (MÉXICO): Rally Guanajuato México’s much-anticipated return to the FIA World Rally Championship calendar will see competitors facing some of the most specialised gravel stages in the world. The technical nature of the winding trails through the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains is made even more difficult by the higher altitude and intense seasonal heat.
The event is also synonymous with some of the most spectacular super special stages in the WRC calendar, none more so than the traditional opening blasts around the narrow and slippery cobbled streets and through the ancient silver mining tunnels in the historic town of Guanajuato.
The 1.12km street stage in Guanajuato kicks off the competitive action after the ceremonial start outside the Alhóndiga de Granaditas museum on Thursday evening. Competitors will tackle the stage twice with the first car live on SS1 from 20.05hrs (México time).
Crews then return to León for the overnight halt before tackling a loop of three tricky gravel stages on Friday morning. Action gets underway with the famed El Chocolate special, which runs for 29.07km on this occasion and starts at 08.48hrs. Runs through Ortega (15.71km – 09.46hrs) and Las Minas (13.79km – 10.39hrs) precede a return to León for a lunchtime regroup and service at the Rally Campus Service Park.
The three gravel stages are repeated from 14.22hrs, 15.20hrs and 16.13hrs in temperatures approaching the mid-thirties Centigrade by mid-afternoon and the tracks climbing to nearly 2,800 metres above sea level.
Entertainment for television fans and spectators then takes centre stage and two brand new super specials will round off the day’s action, with the first being used on four occasions during rally weekend. The Las Dunes (3.70km) stage uses gravel roads in a nearby quarry and starts at 17.16hrs, while Friday’s timetable concludes with the 2.76km of an asphalt and cobblestoned Distrito León MX SSS, starting at 18.16hrs.
Saturday’s action is centred around the area to the north and east of León in the Sierra de Lobos mountains and again is organised around two loops of three gravel stages and three super specials.
The 14.82km of Ibarrilla gets proceedings underway at 08.13hrs and is quickly followed by the El Mosquito (22.56km) special from 09.04hrs. After a refuelling stop, Derramadero (21.70km – 10.05km) precedes a return to the Las Dunes special at 11.13hrs.
The three gravel stages are repeated at 14.06hrs, 14.59hrs and 16.05hrs. Drivers then face a third run through Las Dunes (17.18hrs) and a second visit to the Distrito León MX SSS, which runs under the Rock & Rally name and will again feature numerous additional attractions for spectators, including live music and entertainment.
Sunday morning’s compact route features just three stages before the Wolf Power Stage finale. A fourth run through Las Dunes gets the action underway from 08.05hrs and precedes the longest stage of the entire rally – the 35.63km Otates special – that could provide a real sting in the tail.
This is followed by a run through the San Diego (12.61km) stage from 10.24hrs and the final El Brinco (9.59km) special that acts as the all-important televised Power Stage from 12.18hrs.
In a total route of 969.62km that includes 23 special stages, 315.69km will be timed against the clock.