Rally Mexico is the furthest away from home that the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team has travelled so far, and also the toughest challenge they face yet. Before the first of 19 special stages in Mexico City tomorrow, both cars completed the 5.31-kilometre shakedown test close to the rally base in León today. After their first taste of the high temperatures and rough rocks that will characterise the rally for the next four days, the drivers and cars are now ready for the mammoth task that lies ahead.
The shakedown was a final opportunity to check each car’s systems before the rally start, with the drivers pushing hard to validate the set-up and tune the engine to the thin air of Mexico. Jari-Matti Latvala set the fourth-fastest time while Juho Hänninen was tenth but very close in terms of time, with all the competitors looking evenly matched so far.
Tom Fowler (Chief Engineer)
“For this shakedown we were able to run the full performance, unlike the other rallies when we had to save tyres. The main target was to finalise the mapping for the engine, so we had engineers tuning the engine for each run and we made some improvements through the runs. We’re very happy with the times for both drivers. We achieved everything we were looking for: there were no technical issues so we were able to spend the time concentrating on performance, which was encouraging.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 10)
”In the first run on the shakedown I didn’t feel completely happy but we changed some of the engine mappings and adjusted some clicks on the dampers, which we were expecting to do. On the second run it felt a lot better and by the third run I was really happy. So now I’m feeling confident but it’s going to be a tough rally with the heat: more like an endurance test than a sprint.”
Juho Hänninen (Driver car 11)
”The general feeling is good and we had no issues with the car during shakedown; we were just working with the engine maps a bit. Now I think we have found the right solution. Mexico is a long rally with really demanding stages so Sunday feels like quite a long distance away at the moment! I’m looking forward to our visit to Mexico City tomorrow, which will be a lot of fun: the Mexican fans are great so we’re expecting a lot of enthusiastic spectators.”
On the other side of the world to Mexico, the 87th Geneva Motor Show has been taking place in Switzerland, where Toyota revealed the Yaris GRMN road car. The car is inspired and influenced by Toyota’s return to the WRC in 2017 with the Yaris WRC. It is powered by a 1.8-litre supercharged engine and puts out in excess of 210bhp. For more information please visit: http://toyotagazooracing.com/pages/grmn/sp/yaris/en/
While Rally Mexico has only been part of the World Rally Championship since 2004, motorsport in Mexico is a lot older, with the country having hosted the famous Carrera Panamericana from 1950 to 1954. This was an epic road race across Mexico, with the winner of the final race, Umberto Maglioli, setting an average speed of 222kph. By contrast, Jari-Matti Latvala’s winning average last year was 90.2kph. This is because the modern Rally Mexico is formed of tight and twisty gravel roads, while the old Carrera Panamericana was a flat-out race using public asphalt roads, with long straights. The 2016 Rally Mexico route contained the longest stage of the season at 80 kilometres in total, but this has been shortened for 2017.
The cars will be transported 400 kilometres south to Mexico City, for two runs over the opening 1.57-kilometre super special stage in Zocalo Square tomorrow (9 March): CDMX Street Stage Presented by Michelin. The first car is due to start at 18:05. Afterwards the drivers will return to Leon by aeroplane, while the cars will be loaded back onto the transporter, ready for Friday’s opening day of action.
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