Loudon-clear guide to Rally Mexico

Loudon-clear guide to Rally MexicoFrom Tunnocks (Stuart Loudon) [ 06/03/2018 ].
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Seconds out, round three… Forget the snow, it's time to give Mexico a wave and say hello to the sunshine. Round three of this year's FIA World Rally Championship is upon us already and there's plenty to talk about ahead of the season's first longhaul event. The primary point of interest in León will be Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena's return to the series for the first time since 2015. Driving alongside Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle in the Citroën team, the nine-time champions are sure to spend much of their trans-Atlantic week in the spotlight.

It's fantastic to see them back and it's going to be intriguing to see how they get on with the C3 WRC, but at the same time you can't help feel sympathy for Craig Breen and Scott Martin. It would have been brilliant to see what they could have achieved on the back of their stunning second in Sweden. Equally, there's a good case for elbowing your own granny aside to get a driver like Loeb back in…

Loeb's return is just one aspect of what's going to be a fascinating Rally Mexico. Among the others are Thierry Neuville's ability to deal with running first on the road in the worst of the conditions and the chance this offers those further down the order; what can the likes of Andreas Mikkelsen, last year's Mexico winner Kris Meeke and Elfyn Evans do with what should be an ever-improving level of grip?

Rally Mexico in detail
FIA World Rally Championship round 3/13
Date: Thursday March 8 - Sunday March 11
Service: León
Stages: 22
Competitive distance: 345.60km (214.75 miles)
Liaison distance: 675.52km (419.76 miles)
Total distance: 1021.12km (634.57 miles)
Shortest stage: SS5/19 Street Stage Leon 1.11km (0.69 miles)
Longest stage: SS3/7 El Chocolate 31.44km (19.53 miles)
Currency: Mexican peso
Time difference: GMT -6

The 5.31km (3.29 miles) shakedown stage is located at Llano Grande, 16.67km (10.35 miles) from León service park. The stage runs from 0900-1400 on Thursday March 7.

Rally Mexico itinerary

Thursday March 8
SS1 Street Stage Guanajuato 2.53km (1.57 miles) 2008

Friday March 9
SS2 Duarte-Derramadero 1 26.05km (16.18 miles) 1033
SS3 El Chocolate 1 31.44km (19.53 miles) 1121
SS4 Ortega 1 17.23km (10.70 miles) 1214
SS5 Street Stage León 1 1.11km (0.69 miles) 1402
Service León 1422
SS6 Duarte-Derramadero 2 26.05km (16.18 miles) 1600
SS7 El Chocolate 2 31.44km (19.53 miles) 1648
SS8 Ortega 2 17.23km (10.70 miles) 1741
SS9 Autódromo de León 1 2.30km (1.42 miles) 2001
SS10 Autódromo de León 2 2.30km (1.42 miles) 2006
Service León 2121

Saturday March 10
SS11 Guanajuatito 1 30.97km (19.24 miles) 0833
SS12 Otates 1 26.37km (16.38 miles) 1011
SS13 El Brinco 1 9.98km (6.20 miles) 1108
Service León 1228
SS14 Guanajuatito 2 30.97km (19.24 miles) 1421
SS15 Otates 2 26.37km (16.38 miles) 1554
SS16 El Brinco 2 9.98km (6.20 miles) 1638
SS17 Autódromo de León 3 2.30km (1.42 miles) 1738
SS18 Autódromo de León 4 2.30km (1.42 miles) 1743
Service León 1833
SS19 Street Stage León 2 1.11km (0.69 miles) 2026

Sunday March 11
SS20 Alfaro 24.32km (15.11 miles) 0818
SS21 Las Minas 1 11.07km (6.87 miles) 1008
SS22 Las Minas 2 11.07km (6.87 miles) 1218
Finish: Foro del Lago 1430

2017 Rally Mexico result:
WRC: 1 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 3h22m04.6s; 2 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +13.8s; 3 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +59.7s.
WRC2: Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson (Škoda Fabia R5).

Running order:
5 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC)
7 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC)
9 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC)
8 Ott Tänak/Martin Jarveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC)
4 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
10 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC)
2 Elfyn Evans/Dan Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC)
3 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC)
11 Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Citroën C3 WRC)

Leading WRC championship positions:
1 Neuville 41pts; 2 Ogier 31; 3 Latvala/Lappi 23; 5 Tänak/Mikkelsen 21; 7 Craig Breen 20; 8 Meeke 17; 9 Hayden Paddon 10; 10 Evans 8.

Leading WRC2 runners:
31 Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson (Škoda Fabia R5)
32 Jari Huttunen/Antti Linnaketo (Hyundai i20 R5)
33 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Škoda Fabia R5)
34 Radik Shaymiev/Maxim Tsvetkov (Ford Fiesta R5)
35 Marco Bulacia/Mussano Fernando (Ford Fiesta R5)
36 Nil Solans/Miquel Ibañez Sotos (Ford Fiesta R5)
37 Benito Guerra/Borja Rozada (Ford Fiesta R5)
38 Gus Greensmith/Craig Parry (Ford Fiesta R5)
39 Pedro Heller/Pablo Olmos (Ford Fiesta R5)

Leading WRC2 championship positions:
1 Jan Kopecky/Takamoto Katsuta 25pts; 3 Eddie Sciessere/Tidemand 18; 5 Suninen/Ole Christian Veiby 15, etc.

Leading WRC3 runner
61 Tom Williams/Phil Hall (Ford Fiesta R2)

Leading WRC3 championship positions:
1 Enrico Brazzoli/Denis Rådström 25pts; 3 Taisko Lario 19; 4 Amaury Molle 18; 5 Emil Bergkvist 18; 6 Julius Tannert 15, etc.

Stuart Loudon's key stage: SS2 Duarte-Derramadero 1 26.05km (16.18 miles)

Like the rest of the world, I was totally transfixed by the car park on the outside of that right-hander near the end of Derramadero last time around. No doubt Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle will keep a slightly tighter line in on Friday morning, but it's still going to be interesting to see them coming through a place they've made very, very famous.

The route for Rally Mexico is so good and the stages such an epic challenge, the itinerary for this event rarely needs much of an overhaul. The stages are generally a little bit shorter this season, certainly there's nothing like the 80-kilometre Guanajuato stage we saw in 2016 and even El Chocolate has had 24 kilometres lopped off it. Despite that, it remains one of the best named stages I think I've ever heard of!

Stuart will be watching… #2 Elfyn Evans/Dan Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC)

Elfyn and Dan have had a pretty unlucky start to the season, but I reckon Mexico's where it's all going to come good for them. Elfyn's a neat and tidy kind of a driver and that counts for a lot when it comes to tyre wear - something that can be a crucial aspect of this event, especially if the morning conditions allow the use of the softer tyre.

From the tyre side, eighth on the road is a tricky one. It's questionable whether the soft would work across the loop, but from a cleaning perspective, eight's a pretty good number.

Elfyn and Dan have finished fourth a couple of times in Mexico and I think they're going to be troubling the podium this time around. Question is, which step? Let's be positive, they're going in the middle - one better than last time they were on the Atlantic's far side.

Weather with you:
Nothing but sunshine and 45 degrees warmer than it was at times during round two. León's looking at 30 degrees with the odd bit of cloud here and there.

Most successful driver on Rally Mexico:
Sébastien Loeb (6 wins)