Rally Mexico Of Interest To New Zealand
Mexico of interest to New Zealand
New Zealand WRC fans will be watching results from this weekend's first gravel round of the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship season in Mexico with keen interest (29th Feb - 2nd Mar).
WRC points leader Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) heads to the gravel of Mexico this weekend having shown podium form at the WRC Rally New Zealand in 2007. Photo credit: Alan MacDonald Macspeed Photography
Rally Mexico is the first of seven consecutive gravel events and results provide a strong indicator which drivers are expected to be on-form for Rally New Zealand, the local round of the WRC in late August.
The third rally on the 2008 WRC calendar, Rally Mexico is also the first long-distance trip for the WRC teams, run through high-altitude mountains to the north and east of host city León, 400km north of Mexico city.
Covering 20 stages over three days it is famed for the passionate fans who line the roadsides. A relatively high-speed event, the cacti-rich region tests drivers with the technical and changing nature of the often rock-littered roads. Climbing to an impressive 2737 metres above sea level, the rally uses loops of stages over the Friday and Saturday with a final double-run of the super stage concluding the competition on Sunday.
While it will be the first encounter of dust for the 2008 season, temperatures are predicted to be temperate with the chance of rain to add to the challenging river crossings teams must contend along the way.
Current WRC points' leader Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) placed third in Rally Mexico in 2007 and says being first car on the road this weekend will make it difficult to be fast.
"First on the road isn't the best place to be in Mexico because there will be loose gravel and stones on the road surface," said Hirvonen, a 27-year-old Finn. "It's better to be further down the order where the roads will be cleaner but I don't mind putting up with that if it means I lead the championship. I really don't want to start first on Saturday or Sunday though, and it will be interesting to see if tactics come into play at the end of the first day as drivers try to obtain a better start position for the rest of the weekend."
The same 'road clearing' scenario will face drivers for the New Zealand event, which is 11th on this year's 15-round WRC calendar.
Defending WRC champion, Citroen's Sébastien Loeb, will be putting maximum pressure on Hirvonen's six point lead, while Hirvonen's Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala is tied with Loeb for second on the table and will be looking for another top finish after his success in Sweden in February.