The 2019 season hosts its first gravel event at Rally Mexico. There the Citroen crews Sébastien Ogier – Julien Ingrassia and Esapekka Lappi – Janne Ferm will tackle the invariably hot, high altitude roads around León. The team’s crews will be pursuing their third consecutive podium.
Rally Mexico is an unusual event. Its main characteristics are heat and high altitude in particular. They are unique for this WRC round and are impossible to reproduce in Europe, meaning that experience is primordial. Citroen is not short on experience in Central America. The team holds the manufacturer’s record here. It has won seven of the fourteen events that have been contested as part of the WRC.
With Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, Citroen also has the crew with the second-best record at the event
That means 4 overall wins, the last of which came last year. The French crew, therefore, has good reason to have genuine hopes of success. Especially as the Rallye Monte-Carlo winners will be running third on the road on day one. That seems a better place to get the absolute maximum from the C3 WRC.
“We had two good days of pre-event testing, on roads that were fairly representative of the kind of stages we’ll have to tackle this weekend. We were lucky with the weather during the tests, which was very warm, although obviously not quite as hot as in Mexico. After a tough Rally Sweden, where we weren’t able to express ourselves, I can’t wait to get started and realise our full potential. The stages are beautiful here but you do need to be careful on the afternoon loop, when it’s warmer. The second passes are always hard on the cars, especially as the high altitude means not only reduced horsepower but can also cause issues with cooling”, Ogier explained.
— Sébastien Ogier (@SebOgier) February 23, 2019
Meanwhile, recent runners-up in Sweden Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm start fifth in the running order
Therefore, they can expect more of the fine layer of sandy gravel to have been swept off the line by the time they tackle the stages. They will be looking to take advantage of the cleaner roads as they try to compensate for their lack of knowledge of the stages.
“The tests held in Spain enabled me to feel even more comfortable in my C3 WRC, building on what we achieved at Rally Sweden. I feel increasingly at one with the car. Having said that, I know that my experience of Rally Mexico is very limited. I only have one competitive appearance here, at last year’s rally, in addition to completing recce in 2017. In light of that, a top-five finish would be a good result for me”, Lappi said.
“Our starting order will give us an advantage over the first few crews so it’ll be up to us to make the most of it. You really need to be clean and efficient in your driving on these roads, given that we lose about a hundred or so horsepower due to the high altitude.”
— Esapekka Lappi Rally (@EsapekkaLappi) February 20, 2019
C3 WRC claimed its maiden career win at Rally Mexico in 2017 in only its third race
The car also showed its qualities at this round last year, finishing on the podium (3rd). It claimed as well a total of eight stage wins, the most by any of the teams. In order to prepare for this year’s event, each crew had two days of testing in the south of Spain. The conditions there were close to those expected in León.
“We head for Mexico looking to confirm our strong start to the season and finish on the podium again, especially as Sébastien and Esapekka have decent road positions given that the level of grip will improve gradually as more cars come through the stages. We know that things can be completely shaken up on this first gravel event of the season, especially due to the unusually high stresses placed on the cars related to the altitude and the heat, but we’ve always done well here. Once again, we’ve done everything we can to come into the rally with the best possible preparation”, Citroen Racing Team Principal Pierre Budar commented.
An arid land at dusk. A Cactus among cactuses?. It could be the perfect Western spaghetti set, or the dreamed playground to support @SebOgier and @EsapekkaLappi at WRC #RallyMexico from ?️ March 7 to 10 #C3WRCLive #100YearsOfFans pic.twitter.com/Uw9StYWeNT
— Citroën (@Citroen) March 4, 2019