Rally Mexico’s technical but smooth roads covered in loose gravel return to WRC after sitting out two seasons. The route is once again mostly unchanged, but there’s some interesting updates in the super specials, as well as some new sections that were left undriven in 2020 when COVID-19 cut the event one day short. The new Rally1 hybrid cars will face the high altitudes for the first time. It will be interesting to see how they deal with the tough conditions or how much will the performance increase from the support of the electric boost which doesn’t suffer in lower oxygen levels.
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Cover image by Toyota Gazoo Racing (C)
The shakedown of Llano Grande has remained unchanged since 2013, except now the start and very first corner is from the opposite direction. This stage represents the conditions and road types of the rally quite well. It consists mostly of a quite narrow and angular road with a wider section at the end, topped with a water splash.
SSS1+2 Street Stage GTO driven in the downtown of the city of Guanajuato is one of the best known stages of Rally Mexico. A prototype of modern street stages, essentially it consists of a short tunnel section with four corners, followed by a roundabout. This stage was first used in 2011 when it was the first ever WRC stage to have a donut marked in the road book.
All the desert stages of Friday are the same as in 2020 with just one of them shortened a bit. Meanwhile, the super specials are almost completely new.
SS3+6 El Chocolate is the longest stage of the day at
31 km (shortened to 29 km in Bulletin #1). It has numerous rhythm, surface and width changes which don’t occur always at junctions. But in general it’s one of the slowest stages of the rally, or at least the one with the slowest and most sinuous sections.
Everybody knows the title El Chocolate although it’s a relatively new stage, having debuted as late as 2013. It’s become a classic by being a gruelling stage, not just in terms of the length. The tight corners and numerous altitude changes put their strain on many parts of the car. In addition, later runners will likely find some rocks pulled from the sides of the road, and thus this stage has ended the rallies of several WRC2 contenders, such as Kalle Rovanperä in 2018 or Oliver Solberg in 2020.
In comparison to previous versions, the first road is now removed and El Chocolate starts on a road which is alternating between fast and technical passages, latter examples including two sets of ascending hairpins. The stage becomes first narrower at 4.1 km, then wider at 8.7 km.
A very narrow, technical and slow section begins at 7.8 km. This section ended Teemu Suninen’s rally short in 2019, going just slightly off the road and crashing the car onto big rocks.
The junction at 12.4 km takes the stage onto a slightly wider road which is very technical and some corners are still narrow. Another section not to remember for Teemu Suninen, as he went off here into a bridge in 2018, but the section also took off his compatriot Esapekka Lappi the same year.
At 16 km another junction turn makes the stage mostly wider, starting with a fast passage but turning soon technical again, and partly narrow as well. Furthermore, a very steep uphill begins at 19.5 km
The pace is upped thoroughly at 21 km. There are still some tighter corners from time to time, as well as varying levels of technicality and width, but also some completely flat out passages.
SS4+7 Ortega is one of the oldest stages of the rally, having featured in every edition since 2004, although from 2013 to 2017 it was merged into El Chocolate. For this year the start is 1.6 km later than in 2020.
While El Chocolate is one of the slowest desert stages, Ortega is the fastest of the whole rally – being wide, fast and flowing. It’s also notable that Ortega is also the highest elevated stage of the rally.
In 2018 Elfyn Evans had a high-speed roll on this stage.
Two years earlier, it was Thierry Neuville who was unlucky in Ortega.
SS5+8 Las Minas has served as the power stage in 2018 and 2019. This year’s route is the same as in 2020.
The beginning is at a narrow and tricky passing of a village succeeded by a downhill hairpin and a water splash. The mountain road remains technical and quite narrow until it meets the 2019 start at 2.9 km on a fast-flowing section. After a technical passage the stage joins a wide road at 5.2 km, becoming again fast and flowing, with technical passages at 7.3 km and 10.7 km. Then the stage becomes altogether more technical and soon also narrower.
At the end there’s a cobblestone and tarmac section introduced in 2018. That year the tarmac part contained a chicane, which caused some controversy after Sebastien Ogier received a time penalty for moving the chicane. Since then the chicane has been removed.
SSS9+14+18+20 Las Dunas is a new super special stage for the rally. It’s situated in an old mining area, and driven on gravel surface, resembling more of a short desert stage. Essentially it replaces the traditional twin-car Autodromo de Leon stage.
Las Dunas was driven in a different format in the 2022 Rally of Nations, and we can see how the area looks like on this video.
SSS10+19 Distrito Leon Mx Rock & Rally is a variation on the old Street Stage Leon, but with a highly updated, extended and most importantly improved route. The start – with two donuts – is inside the tent, where majority of the stage used to be. A short bit on the street, also used before on the stage, takes onto a parking lot for a twisty section.
Next up is another link on the street leading into the most interesting section of the stage – cobblestone paths in a park, which almost resembles the Mickey Mouse stages of RAC, shown on the street view below! Finally a bit of street concludes the stage.
Just before the start of the rally, the stage was cut half shorter, removing the park section, making the stage effectively a lot duller.
The Saturday route has some updates from 2020 but all the roads have been used within the past few years. The length of the day is almost equal to Friday, both containing 128 stage kilometres.
SS11+14 Ibarrilla was last used in 2016, but in a much longer format. This year’s version uses only the middle part of the 2016 route, and in the opposite direction, while this year’s direction was last used in 2015. The beginning was also used on the 2017 Media Luna stage and the ending on 2020’s Guanajuatito stage.
Ibarrilla starts on a wide, smooth and very fast section. There’s only a handful of tighter turns during the first 6.6 km, including a jump at 5.6 km. After that there’s a short angularly technical passage with a concrete bridge and then more flat out action, until the stage becomes sinuously technical at 9.1 km and soon also narrower and rougher. A hairpin junction at 11.4 km turns onto a smoother, but still narrow and technical road. Just before the finish there’s a junction turn but the character of the road remains similar.
SS12+16 El Mosquito boasts a new stage title, but on a closer look the stage is very familiar, reusing the routes of Alfaro and Otates. In fact, the route is almost identical to the single-run Alfaro of 2019, shown on this onboard.
The stage starts fast and wide but soon meets a very sinuous passage, proceeding onto a medium wide road, mostly quite fast with some slow corners breaking the flow. The stage becomes wider at 3.4 km and more technical at 6.6 km, including a junction turn which doesn’t change the character of the stage.
A sinuous section begins at 11 km, proceeding similarly onto the next road which is also narrower and rougher. The junction at 17.5 km brings up the pace but also increases the roughness.
Finally a wide and smooth road is joined at 21.2 km. However, it’s still quite technical, involving the cobble stone corner where Kris Meeke rolled the car in 2018.
SS13+17 Derramadero is identical to that of 2020. It’s also known sometimes as El Brinco, with a new artificial jump built in 2019.
The stage begins on a quite narrow road, first straightforwardly fast and then sinuously technical and slow. The next very fast passage at 3.6 km makes the road also narrower for a while but wide at 4.8 km . A very technical, narrow and rough passage follows at 7.1 km, including a concrete corner. At 9.3 km it’s smoother and faster but still narrow until the junction turn at 10.3 km where it becomes a bit wider and angularly technical. The junction at 13.6 km makes the stage again narrower. It’s mostly technical with a fast passage at 16.2 km.
At 19.9 km there’s a turn onto the new section which is a very narrow and rough road, almost a track. It goes first over a hill (pictured on the cover image) and then descends onto a straight which accelerates onto the artificial jump built in 2019, inspired by the Ruuhimäki jump in Finland. However, this jump is a bit awkward and it seems like the drivers need to brake a lot for the jump.
The Las Dunas stage features after both morning and afternoon passes of Derramadero, while the evening is concluded with the second run of Distrito Leon Mx Rock & Rally.
Sunday opens with the fourth run of Las Dunas super special. However, after that the day is mostly the same that was supposed to be driven in 2020, but canceled because COVID-19 started closing the world and the teams had to move quick to get back to home in Europe. Thus, the new sections for 2020 are still new this year.
All three desert stages – making up 58 km in total – are run only once in the rally, but all of them feature some sections driven already twice earlier in the rally, almost of a tradition of Rally Mexico. The roads are firm-based and the entry lists short, so three passes doesn’t cause any problems in terms of road deterioration. However, the grip level will decrease when the shared sections change into the single-run ones and vice versa.
SS21 Otates is the longest stage of the rally at 35 km. The start and end are the same as was supposed to be in 2020, but a small road section from the first half is now replaced with a faster detour. In this format the whole first half is shared with Saturday’s El Mosquito, driven now for the third time.
At 17.5 km the route proceeds onto a road which hasn’t been driven in the rally since 2004. It appears to be fast at first, then very technical. At 26.3 km there is a hairpin turn onto a section familiar from Duarte – Derramadero of 2018, a narrow but fast and flowing road with a steep uphill. The last 5.7 km are also the same as 2019’s Otates. On this descending section the stage becomes more technical with a quite fast but bumpy passage near the end.
This video is from the very last corners of the stage, featuring a very long view of the cars.
SS22 San Diego has a new stage title, but its roads are familiar. The first half is actually a reverse run from the first half of Saturday’s Derramadero stage, meaning it’s driven for the third time. The last time this direction was used was 2018’s Duarte – Derramadero. The begin is on a very wide and fast section, which becomes first narrow and then technical. Then road widens again a bit and becomes angularly fast.
At 7.7 km the shared section with the Derramadero stage ends and there’s a junction turn at the town of Derramadero. After that the road is more rocky rough. The last 3.9 km of the stage haven’t been used since 2011’s Comanjilla stage. It’s a bit more technical than the beginning, descending constantly.
SS23 El Brinco serves now as the power stage. The 1.5 km ascend at the beginning is new and driven only once, whereas the rest will be a repeat from Saturday’s Derramadero and driven three times. Thus the rally ends on the new artificial El Brinco jump.
UPDATED 21.2.2023: Small updates on Shakedown, Las Dunas and Distrito Leon Mx routes, text modified accordingly
UPDATED 7.2.2023: El Chocolate shortened
UPDATED 17.3.2023: Distrito Leon Mx shortened