It’s March, it’s hot, it’s dusty, and the air is thin. Welcome to the WRC Guanajuato Rally Mexico 2023. In the WRC season 2023, we are equipping all Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid, Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid, Ford Rally2, Citroen Rally2, Ford Rally3, and Ford Rally4 with our Reiger Suspension brand. The 23 stages over 2000 meters above sea level and loose surfaces in central Mexico shuffle the starting field yearly.
The rally starts in Mexico in the picturesque Guanajuato in central Mexico. It runs through the beautiful old town, the former mining shafts, and riverbeds that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At first, it seemed that our long-time Reiger Suspension motorsport customer M-Sport Ford would continue its momentum from Sweden in North America. During the first two stages, Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja dominated in their Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid (#8).
However, the Ford M Sport team had to pay for a lesson in Mexico. For the first time, Pierre-Louis Loubet drove the second Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid in a rally outside of Europe.
It also has been a challenging weekend in Mexico for the third Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid (#9) with Jourdan Serderidis and co-pilot Frédéric Miclotte. “It has been a difficult weekend for us because we made some mistakes” Pierre-Louis Loubet explains. “However, we take the experience into account for future races. I’m sure there are better days ahead.”
The drivers Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja in their Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid (#8) couldn’t live on their performance for a long time. Their plans were cut short by a technical defect on the turbocharger.
However, they managed to work their way back up from the bottom of the standings on Saturday and Sunday, finishing in ninth place overall and earning the second-best time on the “Power Stage.”
But there was someone else who turned up the heat more and more every day: A routinier who won’t even be sitting in the cockpit for the entire World Championship due to scheduling conflicts. We’re talking about Sébastien Ogier.
After his overall victory in Monte-Carlo, the “WRC part-time rally driver” took a break during the rally in Sweden. But Sébastien Ogier loves Mexico, and Mexico loves Sébastien Ogier. The eight-time WRC champion has already celebrated six overall achievements in the “United Mexican States.”
In 2023, it was no different. From the third stage, Sébastien was always in direct striking distance of the leaders. The longer the rally lasted, the more air Sébastien Ogier got with his co-driver Vincent Landais in the Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid (#17).
On the first two special stages in the old town of Guanajuato, Sébastien Ogier stacked the deck low with a seventh and fifth place in front of a packed crowd of visitors.
The gravel tracks in Mexico literally spin into the sky and the third special stage, “El Chocolate”, is already at its highest point over 2660 meters above sea level. The air becomes correspondingly thin and the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engines lose a lot of power. This “problem” is compensated in the Rally1 cars thanks to the additional electric hybrid power.
From the third special stage, Sébastien Ogier began to lick blood and gained meter after meter. From special stage 3 and special stage 10 the Frenchman was always second fastest. From the eleventh special stage, he won every stage without mistakes and left no chances for his competitors.
The only one who was able to keep up from special stage three to special stage 23 including the Power Stages was Elfyn Evans and his navigator Scott Martin. They finished sixth once, fourth twice, third eight times, and second twelve times in all the special stages.
While Sébastien Ogier won the 305-kilometer special stages with a time of 3:16.094.4 hours, the two Brits finished third in Mexico with 27.9 seconds behind. They were only 0.4 seconds slower than Thierry Neuvielle in the Hyundai.
Reigning world champion Kalle Rovanperä was lucky in Mexico and saved his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid (#69) dozens of times. He kissed embankments, had umpteen spins, and always had Fortuna on his side.
Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen finished fourth to score further important points for their title defense after they had already finished Friday one minute behind the leaders. The Finn is now third in the WRC standings, four points behind Sébastien Ogier.
“This is a remarkable result. Last year, we were pretty far off the pace on hot and rough gravel rallies like this one. Everyone had doubts about how we would cope here in Mexico,” adds team boss Jari-Matti Latvala.
With his seventh victory, Sébastien Ogier in the Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid with Reiger coilovers inside crowns himself the undisputed “rally king” of the gravel tracks of Mexico and has truly earned his sombrero. In the WRC standings, Sébastien Ogier now leads by 56 points, although we won’t drive the entire 2023 championship.
Photos: WRC, Toyota Media, Ford Media