Mexico : Stobart M-Sport Ford - Preview
The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team heads to Mexico next week, coming off their best ever finish on the last round in Norway which elevated them to third position in the Manufacturer Championship; the highest in the team's short
history. Round four of the World Rally Championship, Corona Rally Mexico, will favour the three-strong Stobart squad who have all performed well on the surface previously.
Originally run as Rally America in 1979, Rally Mexico has seen many changes since its insertion into the WRC. Thanks to the newly-completed Silao-San Felipe Highway, this is the shortest distance ever for a WRC event at 849.55 kilometres in total competitive route, 43% of which are timed special stages.
The rally is renowned for its extremely high altitudes as WRC cars become depleted in power by up to 100bhp. Roads are fast and mixed, with narrow and rough patches which test the patience of drivers who are always on the lookout for stray rocks amongst the racing line.
Based in Leon, the first complete gravel event of the year will offer spectators 20 stages of high-speed action including the Nextel Super Special Stage, with a recently modified jump creating a greater spectacle for fans. This is the only event based in Central/North America on the WRC calendar and is the furthest west in the championship.
The surface and road style is similar to that of New Zealand mixed with Acropolis, rallies where Stobart VK M-Sport Ford drivers Matthew Wilson, Jari-Matti Latvala and Henning Solberg have all shown form on in the past.
For Solberg and co-driver Cato Menkerud, it is an exciting build-up to their second crack at Corona Rally Mexico. Now sitting fourth in the Drivers' Standings, the Norwegian will head the Stobart contingent, confident after a podium finish in Norway. Solberg tackled the tricky roads last year finishing an impressive fifth in his first appearance on the Central American stages.
Latvala has tackled the event only once previously, in group N, showing impressive pace in 2006. The 21-year-old Finn will have his first attempt at this event in a WRC car when he and Miikka Anttila pilot their Ford Focus RS WRC06 next weekend in Leon. Coming off a fifth placing last month the Finn will be looking to re-produce the form he discovered in Norway.
After a rather eventful two events on snow, 20-year-old Wilson will be looking to score well on his second trip to Mexico. The youngster, partnered by Michael Orr, finished the rally 17th overall last season firmly setting top ten times on every stage and was in a career best sixth until technical issues placed him down the order to a still very respectable eleventh WRC finisher.
I'm really concentrated going into this rally and as with the Swedish Rally, I am aiming for another top-five finish. It's a new experience for me to start the rally fourth on the road, it's the first time I have been this high up in the championship, so for the first day it will be difficult with the road conditions. This is a rally that I really like and I'm looking forward to trying out the Focus on the first gravel event of this season. It always feels strange with the loss of power because of the high stages and it's a bit harder to driver the car, but I know this is the same problem for everyone. I feel happy and I'm not going to rush things.
We had a good rally last year in Group N but it was quite tough on the car so I think with the world rally car being a lot stronger we will have a more reliable rally this year. I hope this year we'll have a good result, if I drive like I did in Norway and keep the car on the road while avoiding some of the big rocks I think we can achieve top six, but at least top eight would be my goal. This sort of surface suites my driving style and to be up the order more than last year will be a great help also.
It should be a really good rally this year. This is the first event for 07 where we will be using notes from last year so I think going back this time will be a lot better. I really like the stages in Mexico, it's a lot different at altitude, getting used to the loss of power but I think with the experience from last year we'll be ready from the start. It's going to be a warm change from the snow rallies but I don't find the heat a problem so long as the hydration levels are kept up. I've been doing a bit of training everyday since Norway and am looking forward to Mexico next week. In general terms, it's a short rally but a very long event.
Malcolm Wilson, Team Principal
I think the guys all have a lot of confidence after the performances and results in both Sweden and Norway, they have all got to grips with the car very quickly indeed. They don't have the experience of this event that some of the other drivers in the championship have, but there's no reason why we cant have another good finish here. The first day will be difficult, especially for Henning because of his road position, but he knows what's ahead.
Stobart M-Sport Ford