BRENTWOOD, England - Qatar M-Sport’s quartet of Fiesta RS WRCs will begin their assault on Rally Mexico later today – the first gravel event of the 2013 FIA World Rally Championship.
The contrast to the opening rounds of the season could not be more different, and with a new Rally Mexico victor guaranteed, drivers Mads Østberg, Evgeny Novikov, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Thierry Neuville will each be hoping that it’s their name which will become immortalised in the event’s history books.
Far removed from the sub-zero climes of late, Rally Mexico will see temperatures rise as high as 30˚C with drivers and co-drivers enduring even higher temperatures in the confines of the cockpit. Such heat can place additional stress on the Ford Fiesta RS WRC’s engine and transmission, but the real challenge is the altitude. As 394.88 km of competitive stages climb over 2500m through the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains, the starved oxygen can see performance levels fall by as much as 20 per cent.
To best cope with these demands, the team has completed a thorough pre-event test in the south of Spain. Modifying the engine to replicate power levels expected at altitude, all four crews have assessed the Fiesta’s characteristics and braking points in such conditions and are now fully prepared for the challenges ahead.
Having secured a fifth and fourth place finish on their two previous visits to the Mexican event, Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson will be looking to go one better next week as they fight for their second successive podium of the year. With194 km of pre event testing under their belts, the Scandinavian duo are well prepared and relishing the fight ahead.
Making the move to gravel, Østberg’s fellow Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team driver, Novikov, will be looking to reap the rewards his speed has the potential to deliver. His co-driver Ilka Minor secured victory alongside Manfred Stohl in Mexico back in 2009.
Having had to forfeit the previous round due to illness, Nasser Al-Attiyah will make his 2013 WRC debut in Mexico as he makes a welcome return to the M-Sport fold. Leading the way for the Qatar World Rally Team, this will be the Qatari’s seventh venture to the Mexican stages – his extensive knowledge an advantage he’ll be able to share with his young team mates.
Partnered by Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini, Al-Attiyah claimed his best ever result from the event last year when he secured sixth place overall – a success he will be hoping to replicate on his long-awaited debut with the Fiesta RS WRC.
Completing the Qatar World Rally Team line-up, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul will be looking to make an impact in Mexico; and with their least preferred events done and dusted, the Belgian duo will be out to impress. Despite this being only his second venture to Rally Mexico, Neuville displayed some impressive speed on his 2012 debut – running as high as third before a mistake relegated him to 13th place overall.
Rally Mexico kicks of this evening with a spectacular start ceremony in the UNESCO World Heritage City of Guanajuato, and finishes on Sunday afternoon.