The World Rally Championship’s first dirt round WRC Rally Mexico 2023 will take place in Mexico in 2023, marking the event’s return to the schedule this weekend after a two-year hiatus. The last time Mexico’s famed rough gravel and high-altitude mountain stages were on the WRC program was in 2020, though Sebastien Ogier took first place and the competition was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ott Tanak of M-Sport, who moved to the top of the championship rankings after winning Rally Sweden last month, will be confronted with the challenge of opening the dusty roads on its return. Tanak now has a three-point advantage over Toyota’s Kalle Rovanpera, the reigning world champion, thanks to his first victory in his second stint at M-Sport.
Tanak’s finest finishes on the Mexican gravel were second-place finishes for Toyota and Hyundai in 2019 and 2020, respectively. However, the Estonian has become associated with the race after crashing into a lake in 2015, which led to one of the most famous vehicle repairs in WRC history.
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Live Broadcast: WRC Rally Mexico 2023 Live
What is WRC Rally Mexico?
The competition will give spectators the chance to observe whether Toyota has fixed the pace problems on unforgiving gravel rallies that dogged the Japanese manufacturer in Greece and Sardinia last year.
Rovanpera stated that the 2023 specification GR Yaris is moving in the correct direction on the challenging surface during the team’s pre-event test in Spain earlier this month. However, the Finn will be constrained by his second-place starting spot on the road.
Toyota will presumably be led by eight-time world champion Sebastien Ogier, who will make his second appearance of a part-time 2023 campaign. With six victories on Mexico’s dirt stages, the Frenchman is a pro and will benefit from a good road position.
Following commanding victories in Sardinia and Greece the previous year, Hyundai took the lead on difficult gravel rallies and will therefore be among the favourites to flourish in Mexico.
Although teammates Esapekka Lappi and the returning Dani Sordo will be in a stronger position to attack to the dusty stages on Friday, Thierry Neuville enters the competition in third place overall.
The high altitude stages in Mexico, according to Neuville, will make management of the hybrid unit essential for success because they will reduce engine output by about 30% as they approach 2,700 m above sea level.
The World Rally Championship’s Rally Mexico has evolved into a contemporary traditional gravel rally that is tough on equipment and a favourite of drivers.
The drive America drive, which took place in 1979 and continued every year until 1985, is where the event got its start.
It was resurrected in 1991, suspended the following year, and then returned in 1993 under Gilles Spitalier’s direction, moving to Valle de Bravo.
Before moving once more to Leon, Guanajuato in 1998, where it has remained ever since, the rally relocated close to the US border near Ensenada.
In 2004, when Markko Martin triumphed, it made its debut on the WRC schedule. Since then, with the exception of 2009, 2021, and 2022, it has been a component of the WRC each year.
WRC Rally Mexico winners
Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier, two WRC pioneers, have a combined total of six wins.
From 2005 to 2012, while driving a Citroen, Loeb won the WRC competition six times in a row. In 2009, the march was not on the calendar.
Ogier won his first race in 2013 before going on to win two more races while racing for Volkswagen in 2014 and 2015. The Frenchman, who raced for M-Sport Ford, Citroen, and Toyota, won the last three WRC races in Mexico.
WRC Rally Mexico itinerary
This year’s edition of WRC Rally Mexico will be contested over 23 stages, comprising 320.71km across four days of competitive action.
Thursday 16 March
Shakedown – begins – 1601 GMT – 1001 local
Stage 1/2 Street Stage GTO – begins 0205 GMT (Friday) – 2005 local
Friday 17 March (8 stages – 125.84km)
Stage 3 – Stage 10 – begins 1448 GMT – 0848 local
Saturday 18 March (9 stages – 128.32km)
Stage 11 – Stage 19 – begins 1413 GMT – 0813 local
Sunday 19 March (4 stages – 61.53km)
Stage 20 – Stage 23- Final stage begins 1818 GMT – 1218 local
Entry List Rally1 (Road Order)
The entry list features 32 crews headlined by 10 Rally1 car entries.
#8 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja – M-Sport Ford World Rally Team – Puma Rally1
#69 Kalle Rovanpera/Jonne Halttunen – Toyota Gazoo Racing – GR Yaris Rally1
#11 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe – Hyundai Motorsport – i20 N Rally1
#33 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin – Toyota Gazoo Racing – GR Yaris Rally1
#17 Sebastien Ogier/Vincent Landais – Toyota Gazoo Racing – GR Yaris Rally1
#4 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm – Hyundai Motorsport – i20 N Rally1
#18 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston – Toyota Gazoo Racing – GR Yaris Rally1
#7 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Nicolas Gilsoul – M-Sport Ford World Rally Team – Puma Rally1
#6 Dani Sordo/Candido Carrera – Hyundai Motorsport – i20 N Rally1
#9 Jourdan Serderidis/Frederic Miclotte -M-Sport Ford World Rally Team – Puma Rally1
Former WRC driver Gus Greensmith will contest his first WRC2 round of the season driving a Toksport-run Skoda Fabia. Greensmith is among a competitive entry that includes Oliver Solberg, former M-Sport team-mate Adrien Fourmaux, reigning champion Emil Lindholm and last year’s title contender Kajetan Kajetanowicz.
How have the Rally1 cars changed for the 2023 WRC Rally Mexico
In preparation for a second season under the new hybrid regulations, WRC teams have spent the off-season perfecting Rally1 vehicles.
Current winner Toyota hasn’t remained still. As it was discovered that the 2022 design overestimated the amount of cooling needed for the hybrid unit, the pronounced air boxes that adorned the car’s flanks to cool the hybrid unit have been replaced with a much smoother, more aerodynamic design. The rear fenders and arches have been redesigned as a consequence of this. In order to account for the new aero package, the back wing has also been modified.
In addition to making aerodynamic adjustments, Toyota decided to upgrade its 1.6-litre engine to increase power and torque.
On the i20 N, Hyundai has also unveiled noticeable aerodynamic changes. New bodywork has been added to the front and back of the 2023 vehicle. The front arches have also been altered, and the bonnet has been expanded and smoothed. The team also decided to use highly modified wing mirrors and the rear wing.
The car’s nose is now essentially an additional splitter thanks to the new look extended front end. The central wing and end plate option from last year’s rear wing has been combined into a single continuous wing that extends the full breadth of the vehicle.
In the meantime, M-Sport has replaced the popular purple livery from last season with a daring new design for its Puma Rally1 with an electric blue and pink livery. Although the vehicle resembles its 2022 model, the team intends to continue developing it throughout the season.
How does the Rally1 hybrid system work for WRC Rally Mexico?
Every level will allow drivers to use hybrid power; power boosts are triggered by the accelerator, and additional boosts are unlocked by energy regeneration while braking.
Before receiving another surge that will be used the next time the throttle is depressed, pilots must replenish 30 kilojoules of energy.
Depending on the style of the stage and conditions, teams will choose one of three custom homologated engine maps to produce the additional 130 horsepower.
Drivers will be forced to travel certain stretches of road and around event service parks in full electric mode, as determined by the FIA and event organizers.
The vehicle can travel 20 kilometres in complete electric mode, and its 3.9 KWH battery, which operates at 750 volts, can be plugged in and recharged in the service park in 30 minutes. The hybrid unit is capable of withstanding a 70G hit.
The vehicles run entirely on sustainable gasoline.
Testing reduction and other rule changes WRC Rally Mexico
A reduction in testing is probably the biggest change to the updated sporting regulations.
In an effort to cut expenses and increase sustainability, WRC teams will only be allowed 21 test days (seven per driver), down from the allotted 28 days from the previous season. Prior to all of the European rounds last year, each manufacturer driver would finish a pre-event test day.
Teams and drivers have expressed varying opinions about the decision.
This year’s Rally1 drivers will be limited to using a total of 28 tyres throughout a race, which is another new rule. They will also be no longer handed an additional four tyres for use in shakedown.
The 15-minute service that is typically conducted before the start of each day has been eliminated by the organizers of gravel rallies only.
“By removing the morning service on gravel events and trimming the flexi-service window for P1 cars, we can reduce the working day by up to three hours, which will benefit team members but also the many volunteer officials, including scrutineers and service park marshals,” explained FIA rally director Andrew Wheatley.