Mexico : Subaru World Rally Team - Preview I
The action is getting hotter as the Subaru World Rally Team crosses to Mexico for round four of the World Rally Championship, with the debut of a new-for-2007 Impreza rally car set to be one of the focal points of the weekend.
The team's new WRC2007
, which will form the foundation of the team's World Rally Championship campaign for the rest of the season, will be used in competition for the first time on this event.
The rally circus has left behind the icy asphalt of Monte Carlo and the snow-bound forests of Sweden and Norway to take on the next challenge: the gravel roads and soaring temperatures of the Guanajuato region in the central highlands of Mexico.
The rally is based in the city of Leon, also known as The Shoe Capital, because it is the hub of the country's footwear industry. This is the championship's only visit to the North American continent and the first ‘long-haul' event of the year for the teams and drivers. For 2007 the service area remains indoors, under the roof of the Poliforum Expo Centre, while the majority of the stages take the crews into the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountain ranges.
Now in its fourth year of inclusion in the WRC calendar, the route takes crews to the highest stages of the season. The medium to high speed, hard-packed gravel roads climb up the side of spectacular valleys, with some peaks rising more than 2700 metres above sea level.
The second stage of the event, Ortega, has the highest peak and the altitude of the tests brings additional challenges for Subaru World Rally Team engineers.
At that height the air is thinner and engines struggle to ‘breathe'. This means engine power output will be reduced and cooling becomes less efficient. To some extent the two problems compensate for each other, since the engine produces less power, but it also puts out less heat. As a result, average speeds are far lower than on lower-altitude rallies run over similar terrain.
The stages are very tricky, with an unpredictable mix of fast and slow sections that do not naturally flow, meaning the drivers find it tough to establish a rhythm. Overall, the stages are quite sandy. They're also a little like those that the drivers tackle in Sardinia, as they include sections that are quite narrow and twisty.
Geographically, Mexico has always been one of the most compact rallies on the World Rally Championship calendar and the total length of this year's event is shorter then ever before. The total distance of 849.55km includes 366.06km of timed special stages and 483.49km of liaison on public roads. The ceremonial start of the rally takes place in Guanajuato City at 1930hrs (local time, six hours behind GMT) on Thursday 8 March and the first of 20 special stages blasts into action at 0828hrs the next day.
Press Release Subaru World Rally Team