- Hyundai Motorsport moves overseas for round three of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally Mexico, ready to defend its championship lead
- Victory for Thierry Neuville and a podium for Andreas Mikkelsen in Rally Sweden saw the team move to the top of the closely fought manufacturers’ standings
- Spaniard Dani Sordo re-joins the team’s three-crew line-up alongside Neuville and Mikkelsen with all crews capable of targeting the podium.
As the first full gravel event of the season, Rally Mexico will offer a stark contrast to the two opening rounds of the 2018 championship. With the rally’s geographical position at high altitude and typically hot climate, the event is often punishing for cars with engine power at a premium in thinner air.
Reaching new heights
Hyundai Motorsport will once again field three crews with Andreas Mikkelsen in the #4 car, drivers’ championship leader Neuville in the #5, and Spaniard Dani Sordo returning for his second event of the season in the #6 car.
All three Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team crews spent time putting the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC through its paces near to Girona in Spain, replicating some of the conditions expected in Mexico next week.
Rally Mexico has been a happy hunting ground for Hyundai Motorsport in the past four years. The team memorably scored its debut WRC podium in the event in 2014, while scoring its first top-three result of last season on the Mexican gravel.
We were pleased to show a much improved performance in Sweden, with results more representative of what we know we can achieve. Just looking at the overall positions of the manufacturers’ championship, it’s clear to see how close the competition is. Mexico will be a different prospect, so we have to tackle the event with realistic expectations. Thierry will be first on the road, as a result of his drivers’ championship position, so we have to accept the job he will have of cleaning the stages. That’s part of the game. Overall, we are hoping to defend our lead in the championship in this early phase of the season by scoring another strong team result.
Fresh focus for HMDP Finns
The Hyundai Motorsport Driver development Program (HMDP) crew of Jari Huttunen and Antti Linnaketo will contest their second WRC2 round of the season in Mexico, following a strong season debut in Sweden. The Finns scored two stage wins on the tricky Norwegian and Swedish stages, outpacing far more experienced crews, ultimately finishing sixth. Without losing over four minutes in a snow bank on Saturday, the crew would almost certainly have been in the hunt for a podium finish.
We were all impressed with how Jari and Antti approached Rally Sweden, and with their performance. It was intended to be a learning experience for the crew, in their first full WRC 2 campaign. They were able to show some good speed and consistency, regularly battling for top-three stage times. Mexico will offer them another valuable weekend of learning on gravel, and we look forward to seeing what they can do in their first participation at this event.
- Rally Guanajuato México covers 22 special stages run over a total distance of 344.49km
- The rally begins with a short street stage run through the colourful former mining tunnels in Guanajuato before moving onto an eclectic mix of stages for the rest of the weekend
- Friday’s highlight will be the El Chocolate stage, a shorter 31.44km test compared to last year, but running to the highest altitude of the season, putting crews and cars under pressure
- Two passes around the Autodromo de León will end the day, a spectacular combination of tarmac and gravel with a big jump and water splash, which will be repeated on Saturday evening
- Saturday’s schedule features the impressive El Brinco jump, with plenty of festive atmosphere from the fervent fans
- The warm conditions will heat up even more on the final morning with the 24.32km Alfaro test and two runs through the 11.07km Las Minas stage.