WRC Preview: Rally Mexico
Written by Apostolos Papageorgiou, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
Just a month on from Rally Sweden, the World Rally Championship returns, and heads to the Americas for the first time since 2020, for Rally Mexico. Popular amongst locals, fans and drivers, Mexico has earned something of a cult status in the series. The sweltering heat and the generally above-average high altitude add a certain amount of character to the whole event, making it a lot more memorable, as well as a higher level of difficulty than most other rallies.
Adding to the spectacle, some exceptional moments have taken place in the rally over the years. From Ford’s one-two at the inaugural event, to Sebastien Loeb driving on three wheels back to service in 2005, using co-driver Daniel Elena as ballast too. Fast forward to almost a decade later, when Thierry Neuville had trouble getting back to service as well, having to fill up his Hyundai with beer in a desperate attempt to reach his mechanics. A year later, in 2015, Ott Tänak suffered a terrifying accident, going off into a lake. Miraculously, M-Sport managed to repair his Fiesta, and he was able to make it to the finish.
Tänak will certainly not look to repeat history this time around, though things will be hard for him from the get-go, as he will be the first car on the road on day one, following his hard-earned win last time out in the snow at Sweden. This means the Estonian has the worst conditions of all his competitors on Friday. Looking to capitalise on this are the usual suspects, the main one being Kalle Rovanperä. The Finn had an undramatic, yet slightly disappointing rally last month, fading away from the battle for a podium spot. His sights are definitely set on the top spot of the rostrum this weekend. The same can be said for Thierry Neuville, who threw away a second place on the power stage in Sweden, despite his teammate being given a penalty to let him through. There will certainly be no room for such mistakes in Mexico.
Elfyn Evans hasn’t really been in the spotlight since the opening day of Monte Carlo, with no podium finishes to his name so far in 2023. Starting fourth, the Welshman has every opportunity to change that, or he’s risking falling behind in the championship hunt. The last man tipped to be in the fight for victory is Sebastien Ogier, who’s back in the Yaris after choosing to sit out at Sweden last month. He is no stranger to winning this event, having triumphed no less than six times in the past, but he’s keen to show the world his crushing performance in the hills of the Monte wasn’t a one off.
As for the rest, Esapekka Lappi is definitely targeting a podium, especially after losing one through no fault of his own in Sweden. With the Finn’s positioning on the tarmac, and gravel expertise, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see him on the rostrum come Sunday afternoon. Dani Sordo is back for Mexico, and he has to prove his poor performance in Monte Carlo is not representative of his level. If he fails to do so, his seat will most likely come under threat from Hyundai's other driver, Craig Breen, who finished second on his first rally, on his return to the team.
Takamoto Katsuta has shown flashes of speed throughout the last few rallies, stretching back to last season, but he now has to prove he can turn them into solid results. After a roll in the opening day in Sweden, he’ll have to try and find his confidence once again. M-Sport’s Pierre-Louis Loubet is simply hoping for an undramatic run to the finish, after suffering a mountain of problems in Monte Carlo, followed by a power stage scare in Sweden, especially since staying out of trouble is the only way to get in the mix with the rest, as he lacks the necessary experience to be truly competitive. This also holds true for returnee Jourdan Serderidis, although the privateer will have to first clear the WRC2 cars if he’s to grab the odd point or two this weekend.
Having mentioned WRC2, it is once again packed with competition, with names like Oliver Solberg, Adrien Fourmaux, defending champion Emil Lindhom and former M-Sport driver Gus Greensmith, who kicks off his season in Mexico, wanting to prove his worthiness of a Rally1 drive. With so much action set to take place, Rally Mexico is definitely not one to miss!