Rally Mexico began in exhilarating style with the spectacular Michelin CDMX Street Stage at the world-renowned Zócalo Square in the heart of Mexico City.
Thousands of spectators gathered to see and hear the WRC machines as the third round of the 2017 World Rally Championship (WRC) got underway.
The location, known most recently from its inclusion in the James Bond movie “Spectre”, offered Mexican fans the chance to see the latest specification cars up close for the first time, as teams and crews tackled two speed tests in wet conditions on the special 1.57km CDMX course.
It is not often to start a WRC event in airplane but that is exactly how the teams’ day began. Everyone gathered at the Leon airport in the morning and after a one-hour flight landed at Mexico City’s international airport. After a series of promotional activities the competitors had a chance to look at the 1.57km-long super special stage.
— Hyundai Motorsport (@HMSGOfficial) 9 March 2017
Just as they did so, a violent storm hit the city, leaving the course completely soaked! The rain did not last, however. As dusk fell the huge Zócalo square filled with curious onlookers and excited enthusiasts. The first cars tackled the stage, which was dotted with large patches of standing water. As more cars completed, the racing line dried out. Juho Haninen leads the standings after the rally’s start.
“No problems at all: the stage actually had more grip than I thought, which was surprising after the rain. It’s great to lead a world championship rally for the first time in my career, but this was just a bit of fun. We concentrated on getting through the stage without any mistakes and the car felt very good and easy to drive. Tomorrow the real challenge begins but it’s not such an early start so I am sure that we will wake up refreshed and ready for action! A big thank you to the team for preparing such a nice car for this rally. Now we need to keep this confident feeling for the stages tomorrow.”
Rally Mexico began in exhilarating style with the spectacular Michelin CDMX Street Stage
Ott Tanak (M-Sport) was second (+1.6sec), followed by Kris Meeke (Citroen, +1.6), Thierry Neuville (Hyundai, +2.6), Hayden Paddon (Hyundai, +3.2), Sebastien Ogier (M-Sport, +4), Dani Sordo (Hyundai, +6), Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota, +6.2), Pontus Tidemand (+6.7), Lorenzo Bertelli (+10.3), etc.
— Citroën Racing (@CitroenRacing) 9 March 2017
“What a great way to start a WRC event!”, Neuville said. “It has been a real honour to have our first Super Special stage in such an iconic location. Rally Mexico already had probably the best ceremonial start of the entire season in Guanajuato where a lot of people always came to cheer for us and this is even more of a step forward. The fans are so enthusiastic in Mexico and it’s great to be part of this incredible spectacle. I like the decision to have two runs of the stage so we can get a bit more mileage having travelled such a long way. It’s also nice for the fans who have been able to watch more WRC action – as probably most of them will not make it to Léon to watch the stages.”
Good start to the rally! ✌️️ Just landed back in Leon, a bit of sleep and we will have a big day tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/VpAoKTn2qu
— Ott Tänak (@OttTanak) 10 March 2017
Paddon was equally amazed: “Wow! That’s all I can say, really. We knew it would be a special start to the rally but this atmosphere was something else. It was an amazing feeling to drive our car in front of these crowds and in such a fantastic venue. I am pumped for the rest of the weekend and hope that we can continue to put on a great show for all the Mexican supporters. Bring on the gravel stages!”
With the ceremonial start and opening stage complete, WRC teams headed back to the rally base at Léon where a further 18 tests await over the coming three days, run over 370.46km
Among the first real race day highlights are the grueling 54.90km El Chocolate stage and a trip to the mine tunnels at Guanajuato. A total of 154.85km of special stages await the crews on Friday.