Since 2004, the World Rally Championship teams have had to deal with a new challenge at the Mexican round of the WRC. Contested on a highly compact route around León and Guanajuato, the stages are all held on roads that are at least 1,800 metres above sea level, peaking at close to 2,800 metres. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team DS3 WRC now head across the Atlantic to Mexico for the Rally Guanajuato Corona, on 6-9 March.
Citroën Racing engineers therefore look for ways to mitigate the effects of the laws of physics. “We have to adapt the engine to this environment,” explained Didier Clément, Chief Operations Engineer for the DS3 WRCs. “The engine mapping is adjusted to reduce the loss of horsepower. If we didn‘t do this specific work, we’d lose around 10% of maximum power output with every 1,000 metres of altitude.”
“The idea is to lose as little power as possible but also reduce the response times during acceleration,” added Didier Clément. “An engine needs air, a lot of fresh air, in order to operate really effectively. In Mexico, there is less air and it’s hot, so we need a really efficient mapping!”
Sheikh Khalid bin Faisal Al Qassimi, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Racing, has high hopes for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team: “Rally Mexico is different than the two previous rallies, this is the first gravel rally this season with stages well elevated on Mexican mountain tops, which pose a great challenge for both man and machine, but I have faith that with the expertise of the Citroën Team, 8x winner of World Rally Championship, a winning formula can see the light at Rally Mexico.” Al Qassimi added: “I have solid confidence in the capabilities of Citroën engineers and technicians, I am certain they will put in their best to prepare the cars. As for Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg, both have proven their elite stature post Rallye Monte Carlo and Rally Sweden results, and although they are strangers to Rally Mexico, I have faith they will be at the heart of the competition, right on the podium.”
Mads Ostberg tames the Citroen DS3 WRC on gravel
“We are still learning,” admitted the Norwegian. “But every mile we cover in the car makes me happy.” Having competed in Mexico for the last three years, his best result being fourth overall in 2012, Mads Østberg hopes to do even better this year: “Although we have to bear in mind that Rally Mexico will still be our first rally on gravel in the DS3 WRC, I’m convinced that we’ll be competitive. I’m positive. A podium finish would be an excellent result.”
Kris Meeke set for first experience of Rally Mexico
“It won’t be the same as in the last rally, where I had to get used to driving on snow,” reiterated Kris. “This time, it’s on gravel and so it should be a lot simpler because I already have a fair bit of experience on this surface.”
Kris Meeke showed he was very quick last year at the Finnish and Australian rounds of the WRC in the Citroën DS3 WRC: “But Mexico requires a very different set-up. I have worked on the videos and have listened carefully to advice from the team and from Mads. I still have some learning to do, but I’m pleased with the set-up that we found in testing. The drop in power output could be an advantage for me because I have a lot of experience of competing in cars with normally-aspirated engines. You need a slightly different driving style and so that shouldn‘t be problem for me.”
“I’ll be concentrating on my own race,” he continued. “I know that I’ll have a good starting position for the long first day. The aim is to score as many points as we can on the overseas events. I’d be pleased with top five finish.”
Contested in the region of Guanajuato, Rally Mexico is an especially compact event. The total distance of the rally has been cut again this year to only 1,038 kilometres, 39% of which features timed sections. Four stages are however among the longest of the season, between 43 and 56 kilometres long.