Kalle Rovanperä and Esapekka Lappi set identical times on Thursday’s shakedown stage ahead of the start of Rally Mexico later this evening.
Rally Mexico is the first gravel event of the season. The event is expected to be a big challenge for the drivers as well as the cars.
This weekend will be the first time that the current generation Rally1 hybrid cars will compete at Rally Mexico’s unique challenge of tough gravel stages combined with temperatures around 25 degrees Celcius and, of course, the high altitude (around 2000 meters) of the stages around León and Guanajuato.
Hybrid efficiency is expected to be more important than ever for this event as the combustion engines will in theory be less powerful at an altitude of around two kilometres above sea level as the air gets thinner.
The electric power from the hybrid unit should, in theory, not suffer from a performance loss, or at least not suffer as much as the combustion engine, due to the oxygen levels at higher altitudes.
Finns on top at Shakedown
Reigning champion Kalle Rovanperä and Esapekka Lappi were joint fastest in the 5.52 km long shakedown stage. Lappi needed four runs through to post his best time while Rovanperä did three runs.
Eight-time champion Sébastien Ogier returns this weekend as part of this part-time WRC programme this season. The Frenchman posted the third-fastest time, 0.3s off the leading pace and 1.1s ahead of Dani Sordo who also returns after not competing last time out in Sweden.
Toyota’s Elfyn Evans was fifth fastest, 0.2s shy of Sordo and 1.3s ahead of Thierry Neuville who is the only driver to stand on the podium at both events (Monte Carlo and Sweden) this season so far.
Winner last time out in Sweden and current championship leader, Ott Tänak, was seventh fastest, 1.3 seconds behind Neuville. A big challenge awaits the Estonian as he has to open the road, meaning he will be ‘cleaning’ the roads. Tänak’s team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet was eight-fastest a further 0.9s behind. Takamoto Katsuta was P9 with his GR Yaris Rally1.
Gus Greensmith only did one run of shakedown with his Skoda Fabia RS Rally2, but this run was good enough for the fastest time in Rally2 machinery, 0.1s faster than Oliver Solberg.
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Rally Mexico gets underway this evening with two runs through the streets of Guanajuato. SS1 starts at 20:05 local time (UTC -6, 03:05 CET, 02:05 BST).
Tomorrow the ‘real’ action starts with the 29.07 km long ‘El Chocolate’ stage. The first car will be in the stage at 08:48 local time (UTC -6, 15:48 CET, 14:48 BST).
WRC Rally Mexico 2023 – Shakedown results
|#||Drivers||Car||Time / Diff. to 1st|
|1.||Rovanperä / Halttunen||Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||3:44.4|
|1.||Lappi / Ferm||Hyundai i20 N Rally1||+0.0|
|3.||Ogier / Landais||Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||+0.3|
|4.||Sordo / Carrera||Hyundai i20 N Rally1||+1.4|
|5.||Evans / Martin||Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||+1.6|
|6.||Neuville / Wydaeghe||Hyundai i20 N Rally1||+2.9|
|7.||Tänak / Järveoja||Ford Puma Rally1||+4.2|
|8.||Loubet / Gilsoul||Ford Puma Rally1||+5.1|
|9.||Katsuta / Johnston||Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||+6.1|
|10.||Greensmith / Andersson||Skoda Fabia RS Rally2||+14.0|
Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing