Rally Mexico is the second round of the Junior World Rally Championship, but only the first time that the series has ventured out of Europe. This makes it a brand new experience for all of the Junior World Championship drivers, although a number have opted to nominate Mexico as the one event they are allowed to miss under this year's regulations.
Those who make the trip across the Atlantic - including Suzuki drivers P-G Andersson and Guy Wilks - will be rewarded by warm weather and fast gravel roads that have already highlighted Mexico as a classic in the making. Rally Mexico was new to the World Championship last year, but it has already won a prestigious international award for the quality of its stages and organisation.
The surfaces consist of loose gravel with a wide variety of speeds and corners. The weather is generally warm, although rain is not out of the question. The roads are flowing, and it is essential to establish a good rhythm in order to find the best line through corners. Some of the stages have a fine covering of loose gravel while others are much more rough and abrasive, making Mexico a tactical challenge as well as an outright test of speed. The desert-like landscape is dominated by cactus plants, small villages and Mexican fans - who are some of the most enthusiastic in the world!
Like all the other drivers, reigning Junior World Champion P-G Andersson has no experience of Mexico. But the Swedish Rally class winner is looking forward to tackling Mexico's gravelly stages for the first time. "As always my biggest rival will be Guy," said the Swede. "I'll be keeping a close eye on his times, and I'll adjust my pace according to his. At the same time, there is no point in taking massive risks because Mexico is a good opportunity to collect big points. I don't know much about the surface apart from the fact that it's all gravel - which is my favourite surface. I have no worries at all about the car, but it's always a big challenge when you come to a place that is completely new."
Guy Wilks set some impressive times on the Swedish Rally en route to second in class, and is also eagerly awaiting the challenge of Mexico. The Englishman said: "Mexico is going to be a level playing field for everybody, but I think experience is becoming less and less important anyway. Nobody can come into a rally with the attitude that they are only there to learn and get safely to the finish. The cars are so tough now that there's only one speed - flat out! My confidence is up after Sweden, so my goal in Mexico is to go out there and win. As usual, my main point of reference will be P-G and I expect him to be my biggest opposition."
Monster Sport Europe team manager Risto Laine, in charge of the two Ignis entries for Andersson and Wilks, commented: "I've not been to Mexico before so it is hard to know what to expect. However, I've been told that the stages consist mostly of smooth gravel, which should suit our car and drivers well. The only preparation we have is the shakedown test before the rally, so it is more important than ever that we work hard in order to maximise every opportunity. We go to Mexico with an open mind, but at the same time determined to do our best."
A third Suzuki Ignis will be run by Czech team JM Engineering for Pavel Valousek. The Czech has finished his first JWRC rally with the Ignis this year, Monte Carlo Rally, in 8th position and is aiming for a podium result in Mexico.
Rally Mexico is based in the leather capital of Leon but gets underway with a colourful ceremonial start in the picturesque town of Guanajuato on the evening of Thursday March 10. The real action starts on Friday morning, with the first of 14 special stages totalling 355 competitive kilometres. The rally has a vicious sting in the tail, as the final stage is an enormous 44.39 kilometres long. The winner is expected back on the finish ramp in Leon at 12:30 (GMT -6h) on Sunday 13 March.Published 4 March 2005