2019 WRC Guanajuato
The Battle continues in the WRC with round three in Guanajuato.
If you’re an RDC reader you like dirt, cars that go fast in the dirt and for most you, you like racing in Mexico. So once a year WRC rally series fills all these requirements. Fast cars, in the dirt, in Mexico!
The 2019 WRC Guanajuato rally takes place in the heart of Mexico not far from the city of Leon. Terrain consists of fast-dusty, winding roads complete with water crossings and deadly cliffs similar to what you find in Baja. In comparison to Baja, the terrain looks reminiscent of the road to Mike’s Sky Ranch or the cross over road from Valle de Trinidad. Great for full-tilt off-road motorsport!
A little history for those who don’t follow WRC.
- The first Rally Mexico was held in 1979 and later joined the WRC circuit in 2004.
- This is the first dirt event for the 2019 series with 21 stages that total just under 200 miles of racing.
- Elevation is near the 9k ft mark which strains both the car engines and drivers alike.
- The most successful driver is Sebastien Loeb with 6 wins
- Temps in the mid 80s
- The “El Chocolate” stage at just under 20 mi long is one of the longest stages of the rally full of hairpin turns, fast sections and narrow dusty roads.
- 2018 winner was Sebastien Ogier
This years event comes in to play with Toyota leading the championship with Estonian driver Ott Tänak with Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier chasing.
Dissimilar to desert racers in the States who chase single races between different series, a championship for a WRC driver and team is highly coveted. Whereas our desert racers seem to yearn for specific race wins (ie Baja 1000, Mint, etc) a championship in WRC is something more than a race win but testament to consistency and dominance throughout the season. That said, it is something few ever achieve in a lifetime of racing.
Fridays stages would see Toyotas Ott Tanak opening the road for the first time in his career as championship points leader. The Estonian driver would see the worst of the loose gravel and rocks on the course making for a tough stage. Taking advantage of the grip as the others swept the road in front of them was 4 time rally Mexico winner Frenchman Sebastian Ogier and Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen; Mikkelsen would take the early lead but later in the day would be taken out of contention after hitting a rock in the race line of the road.
At the end of Fridays racing it would be Ogier, Elfyn Evans and Kris Meeke in the top three overall.
Saturday would start with the “El Brinko” stage but would quickly be red flagged with Finnish driver Esapekka Lappi having a bit of an issue that left him partially blocking the course on a blind corner. This gave a break to Sebastian Ogier who was in route and had acquired a flat during his run which was cut short by the red flag situation and thus maintaining his lead over the rally. But day two or the rally proved hard for all trying to push on the loose gravel roads of Guanajuato and Ogier would maintain his lead of nearly 27 seconds faster than the field overall.
Day 3 of Guanajuato started with Sebastian Ogier in the top spot overall, followed Welsh driver Elfyn Evans and Estonian Ott Tänak just 2.2 seconds apart on the overall standing. But the final stage of the rally would be a power stage allowing racers accumulate extra championship points for the five fastest to complete the stage in contention for the championship.
Kris Meeke would lay down a blazing fast run and looked to have seized the coveted five extra points for being fastest on the power stage. Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo, Esapekka Lappi and Ott Tänak would all take a shot at those power stage points and fall short of the mark.
The last run of the day would go to Sebastian Ogier; Meeke watched with anticipation as Ogier threw down an epic run knocking Meeke out of the fastest spot to collect the five championship points and also solidify his overall win on the rally making it his 5th win in Mexico.
“It has been a very challenging weekend and definitely not one of my easier wins. This is becoming a trend on the WRC now. Never easy conditions and more challenging than the last years,” said Ogier. “So many drivers were getting into trouble and so many cars retired. When you do the recce the roads are beautiful, but it has become much more when you race this rally.”
Championship standings after rally Mexico have Ott Tänak and hit Toyota in first with 65 points, Sebastian Ogier in the Citroen in second with 61 and Thierry Neuville in the Hyundai in third with 55 points.
As the closest WRC race for us in the U.S. this rally should most definitely be on any gear-heads bucket list to attend. The cars may be different but the mentality remains the same. Great drivers and full tilt wide open racing on dusty Mexican roads. Who wouldn’t like that? Set your calendars for 2020!