Rally México, round 3 of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), got off to a spectacular start on Thursday evening with two speed tests on a 1.57km course in Mexico City. Hyundai’s three i20 Coupe WRC were put through their paces at Zócalo square, one of the world’s most historic city squares.
Crowds flocked to see World Rally cars compete in the famous square for the first time to get the weekend’s 19-stage rally underway.
Hyundai Motorsport’s Rally México has begun in exhilarating style with the spectacular Michelin CDMX Street Stage at the world-renowned Zócalo Square in the heart of Mexico City.
Thousands of spectators gathered to see and hear the WRC machines, including the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC rally cars, as the third round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) got underway on Thursday evening.
Licensed to thrill
The location, known most recently from its inclusion in the James Bond movie “Spectre”, offered Mexican fans the chance to see the latest specification cars up close for the first time, as teams and crews tackled two speed tests in wet conditions on the special 1.57km CDMX course.
The stage was set for action as thrilling as the memorable helicopter scene in the latest Bond film with Hyundai Motorsport spying a good result in Mexico, the third round of the 2017 Championship.
Shaken down, not stirred
Rally México is the first gravel event of the season for the new-look rally cars. Wednesday’s shakedown allowed crews to hone the set-up of their vehicles on the 5.31km Llano Grande test.
With four manufacturers represented in the top-four on the shakedown timings – and all three Hyundai Motorsport crews inside the top-six, it looks set to be another closely fought rally.
Paddon/Kennard (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
The Kiwi crew of Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are looking forward to being back on gravel this weekend. A trouble-free run in front of the Mexican spectators has been a motivating way to start the third rally of 2017.
Paddon commented: “Wow! That’s all I can say, really. We knew it would be a special start to the rally but this atmosphere was something else. It was an amazing feeling to drive our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in front of these crowds and in such a fantastic venue. I am pumped for the rest of the weekend and hope that we can continue to put on a great show for all the Mexican supporters. Bring on the gravel stages!”
Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
The #5 Belgian crew of Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul set the fastest time in shakedown and will aim to put the disappointment of Monte-Carlo and Sweden well behind them with a good result this weekend.
Neuville said: “What a great way to start a WRC event! It has been a real honour to have our first Super Special stage in such an iconic location. Rally Mexico already had probably the best ceremonial start of the entire season in Guanajuato where a lot of people always came to cheer for us and this is even more of a step forward. The fans are so enthusiastic in Mexico and it’s great to be part of this incredible spectacle. I like the decision to have two runs of the stage so we can get a bit more mileage having travelled such a long way and it’s also nice for the fans who have been able to watch more WRC action – as probably most of them will not make it to Léon to watch the stages.”
Sordo/Martí (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Spaniards Dani Sordo and Marc Martí will be looking to build on their fourth place in Sweden at a venue where they have been competitive previously. The duo narrowly missed out on a podium in Rally México twelve months ago, so will be looking for a top-three finish this weekend.
Sordo said: “I don’t think I have experienced anything quite as unique as this special stage tonight. The fans were incredible and the location in the Zócalo Square is amazing. It is more than just a ceremonial start and a super special; it’s a signal of the importance of WRC in Mexico, and for us as a Spanish crew, we definitely feel the support and passion. We want to use that as motivation for the rest of the weekend – and to fight for a podium this weekend. ”
Drive Another Day
With the ceremonial start and opening stage now complete, WRC teams head back to the rally base at Léon where a further 18 tests await over the coming three days, run over 370.46km. For Hyundai Motorsport, Thursday’s opening stage will leave happy memories.
Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “I think the Michelin CDMX Street Stage is a great idea and it gives a new flavour to the Championship. For sure it’s something we will remember and it heralds a new chapter in WRC history. It’s a fantastic event and wonderful to bring the WRC into the big cities. It gives more people the opportunity to see our cars in action and to get to know the sport. We already know how passionate Mexican fans are from Léon and Guanajuato. The spectators in Mexico City were just as awesome and it was rewarding to see our drivers putting on a show for them!”
Among Friday’s highlights will be the grueling 54.90km El Chocolate stage and a trip to the mine tunnels at Guanajuato. A total of 154.85km of special stages await the three Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team crews tomorrow.