For the first time in the event’s 12-year world championship history, Rally Mexico started with a street stage in the capital of Mexico City on Thursday evening. And it was Juho Hänninen who emerged in the lead after two runs over a specially-constructed 1.57-kilometre course: the CDMX Street Stage Presented by Michelin. Unusually for Mexico City, there was a big rain storm just before the start of the stage: adding to the challenge and reducing the amount of grip available. Intermittent rain remained for the first run through the stage, affecting road conditions for different competitors.
The short but tricky stage contained plenty of potential hazards to catch the drivers out, so the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT duo elected to play it safe and entertain the crowds rather than risk everything for only a small gain. Juho nonetheless leads while Jari-Matti Latvala lies eighth. The cars and drivers encountered no particular issues during this colourful prelude to the real action tomorrow.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 10)
”We knew that we had to be careful during the super special stage, because we had everything to lose and not much to gain. But the main point of this evening was to put on a good show for the really impressive crowds, and I’m glad that we were able to do that. The first run over the stage was much more slippery than the second. It’s been a long day but now we can start the rally for real.”
Juho Hänninen (Driver car 11)
”No problems at all: the stage actually had more grip than I thought, which was surprising after the rain. It’s great to lead a world championship rally for the first time in my career, but this was just a bit of fun. We concentrated on getting through the stage without any mistakes and the car felt very good and easy to drive. Tomorrow the real challenge begins but it’s not such an early start so I am sure that we will wake up refreshed and ready for action! A big thank you to the team for preparing such a nice car for this rally. Now we need to keep this confident feeling for the stages tomorrow.”
End of day one (Thursday):
1 Juho Hänninen/Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3m37.2s
2 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1.6s
3 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +1.6s
4 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2.6s
5 Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +3.2s
6 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4.0s
7 Dani Sordo/Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +6.0s
8 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +6.2s
9 Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +6.7s
10 Lorenzo Bertelli/Simone Scattolin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +10.3s
(Results as of 21:45 on Thursday. For the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
The Zocalo Square, perhaps best known from the opening helicopter sequence in the James Bond movie Spectre, was previously considered to be the centre of the universe by the ancient Aztecs. As soon as the stage was finished the crews flew back to Léon in the late evening while the rally cars completed the 400-kilometre journey south by transporter, arriving in the early hours of the morning.
The rally proper starts tomorrow morning, as the crews head straight into the longest stage of the event: the 54.90 kilometres of El Chocolate (shortened from 80 kilometres last year). Next up is the 19.68-kilometres of Las Minas, before service at Léon. The same loop of stages is repeated in the afternoon before the Guanajuato stage in the evening, run underground through disused silver mines. The day ends with two runs over the Autódromo de Léon super special.
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