Leading drivers of the World Rally Championship (WRC) taking part in Mexico Rally will find a new challenge in the 80-kilometer Guanajuato stage.
The headline-grabbing gravel stage is the longest to be included in a WRC event for 30 years and contains 194 junctions as crosses through the mountains to the north and east of host city Léon. The Mexico Rally kicked off on Friday.
The route has been made up by combining new pieces of road with sections of other stages that will be driven during the third round of this year’s rally championship.
“It’s a massive stage, but also a fantastic stage,” M-Sport driver Mads Østberg told wrc.com. “It’s a mixture of so many stages we have done before and it’s really nice that it’s been put in on [the last day of the rally].”
Volkswagen Motorsport driver Jari-Matti Latvala said the combination of long straights and twisty sections present challenges.
“On the stage you have some long straights where it’s flat and it’s quite clear. Then you have some sections where it’s a bit more narrow and twisty. But the changes are very clear and it’s easy to get into your head,” he said.
“But the last 10 kilometers are starting to get very tricky and you need to be very sharp. You will have been driving for 70 kilometers and the final 10 kilometers will definitely be more difficult,” Latvala added.
Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville said he expects the closing stages of the Guanajuato test to be “tough” because of the high altitude and high temperatures inside the cockpit, and Østberg agreed with his rival.
“The stage has its own very unique end and is very narrow and tricky. That will be a big challenge with the car starting to get hot, the tires overheating and the brain overheating as well,” Neuville said.
WRC teams will tackle the Guanajuato stage first thing on Monday, the rally’s fourth and final day, and it is anticipated to take around 50 minutes to get from the start to the finish.
The final 10 kilometers of the stage are expected to present the biggest challenge to the teams as the characteristics of the terrain changes, physical fatigue sets in and the cars are pushed closer to their limits.