|2005 FIA Junior World Rally Championship
Round 2 - Rally Mexico (10-13 March)
Thursday 10 March 2005 - Ceremonial Start
SUZUKI DRIVERS SET TO PARTY IN MEXICO!
Three Suzuki Ignis drivers took the ceremonial start of the Rally Mexico this evening, held in a party atmosphere at the world heritage site of Guanajuato. Thousands of fans crowded the colourful streets to wave off their heroes on round two of the Junior World Rally Championship.
Excited Mexican public when the Suzuki Ignis goes over the podium
Rally Mexico is the first time that the Junior World Rally Championship has ventured outside Europe, with the Suzukis of reigning champion P-G Andersson, Englishman Guy Wilks and Czech Pavel Valousek all taking part in the central American event.
The stages consist of fast and flowing gravel, although recent weather conditions mean that the surface is unusually hard, making tyre wear a key issue, There is a wide variety of speeds and corners, and temperatures are expected to be hot over all three days of the rally. Rally Mexico is the shortest and most compact event of the entire championship, with a high proportion of stage to road kilometres. The short, sharp nature of the rally meant that this afternoon's shakedown test - a last-minute opportunity for drivers to check settings and adjust their cars - became all the more important.
None of the three Suzukis suffered any problems throughout the seven-kilometre shakedown stage, held near Silao close to rally headquarters in Leon. Conditions were hot and dry, with temperatures in excess of 30 degrees centigrade. Rally Mexico is also the highest rally in the championship, with the elevated altitude depriving cars of up to 25% of their maximum power output.
P-G Andersson and Guy Wilks were both satisfied with their Monster Sport Europe-run Suzukis after completing two runs each through the shakedown stage. It is the first time that either of them compete in Mexico, but they are both feeling confident.
P-G said: "The conditions on the shakedown stage were actually not so typical of the rest of the rally. The roads were very narrow and twisty, which is not always the case on the rest of the stages. I just took it carefully and made sure that the car felt good and our suspension settings were correct. Mexico is obviously a new experience for everybody, but we have every possibility of doing very well if we stay out of trouble. I am just going to take it as it comes."
Guy commented: "The surfaces were much harder than I expected, with some sharp rocks which caught out a few of the World Rally Car drivers earlier during the shakedown. I went quickly on the good bits of road, but I slowed down for the rough parts as there is no point in damaging the car. When it comes to the rally we'll obviously be flat-out everywhere, but you have to drive with your head as well."
Risto Laine, team manager of Monster Sport Europe, stated: "The shakedown went according to plan and we had no problems. We know that the cars are strong and reliable, but the rest of the rally is something of an unknown quantity. Our realistic target here has to be the class victory, but we are not making any assumptions. The drivers know what they have to do and I trust their judgment in these difficult conditions. "
In addition to the two Monster Sport Europe cars, a third Ignis Sport run by Czech team JM Engineering will be driven by Pavel Valousek.
Pavel said: "It was good to get a taste of the sort of roads we will be driving on for the next three days and it certainly seems set to be a tough challenge. The weather is getting extremely hot, so it will be a test for the drivers as much as the cars. But I have the chance to do well here and a podium is my target."
The proper action on Rally Mexico gets underway with the first of 14 gravel stages at 09:07 (CET -7h) tomorrow. After three days and 355 kilometres of competition, the winner is expected on the finish ramp back in Leon at 12:30 on Sunday 13 March.