Mexico City, 10 March 2017 – Thousands of fans cheered on ŠKODA works driver Pontus Tidemand (S) and his co-driver Jonas Andersson (S) as the Rally Mexico opened in spectacular style. The successful duo took an early lead in the dark at round three of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2) courtesy of two outstanding stage wins on a 1.57-kilometre route around Zócalo square, in the heart of the metropolis that is Mexico City. The brief outing on asphalt will be followed by just short of 370 kilometres of special stage on gravel over the next three days.
"A perfect evening in a fantastic atmosphere. The route was extremely difficult and very slippery. However, the real challenges will come over the next few days," said Tidemand after the opening two stages. Sweden’s Motorsport Athlete of the Year in 2016 opened a 12.7-second lead over second-placed Mexican Benito Guerra, also at the wheel of a ŠKODA FABIA R5.
Rally fans flocked to Zócalo square, which will be familiar to many from a James Bond film as it provided the backdrop to the opening helicopter scene in "Spectre". The opening leg of the Rally Mexico in one of the biggest cities in the world – undoubtedly one of the highlights of the World Rally Championship – was no less spectacular, with rain causing wet roads and tricky conditions.
Before demonstrating their extraordinary driving skills, the drivers had thrilled their many fans with an autograph session in the capital city. Once the opening stages were complete, they then set off on the 400-kilometre drive to Leon, where the service park is traditionally located. Some true highlights of the WRC calendar await Tidemand and Co. on Friday.
On the one hand, they must tackle the famous "El Chocolate" special stage – at 54.90 kilometres one of the longest in the world championship season - twice. They will also head underground: the route through the city of Guanajuato, which is a UNESCO world heritage site, takes the drivers through old mining tunnels. The engines will also be put to the test at the Rally Mexico: the route reaches the highest point in this year’s World Rally Championship at 2737 metres above sea level, where the thin air can result in the power units losing up to 20 per cent of their power.
Pontus Tidemand had made the perfect start to the WRC 2 title race with victory at his home rally in Sweden in February. He tops the overall standings, level on points with Andreas Mikkelsen (N), who won the opening Rally Monte Carlo in a ŠKODA FABIA R5. Starting last season, the high-tech, four-wheel drive powerhouse from the Czech Republic has won 12 of the last 13 races in WRC 2.
Rally Mexico standings (WRC 2):
1. Tidemand/Andersson (S/S) ŠKODA FABIA R5 0:03:43.9 hrs
2. Guerra/Cue (MEX/E) ŠKODA FABIA R5 + 0:12.7 min
3. Camilli/Veillas (F/F) Ford Fiesta R5 + 0:13.6 min
4. Ptaszek/Szczepaniak (PL/PL) ŠKODA FABIA R5 + 0:15.3 min
5. Heller/Olmos (RCH/RA) Ford Fiesta R5 + 0:29.9 min
Number of the day: 3
The ŠKODA FABIA R5 was once again the best car in its class on the opening leg of the Rally Mexico. Three of the top four drivers are at the wheel of the high-tech, four-wheel drive powerhouse from the Czech Republic: leader Pontus Tidemand, Mexican Benito Guerra in second place and Poland’s Hubert Ptaszek in fourth.
The 2017 calendar for the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2)
Rally Monte Carlo 19.01.–22.01.2017
Rally Sweden 09.02.–12.02.2017
Rally Mexico 09.03.–12.03.2017
Rally France 06.04.–09.04.2017
Rally Argentina 27.04.–30.04.2017
Rally Portugal 18.05.–21.05.2017
Rally Italy 08.06.–11.06.2017
Rally Poland 29.06.–02.07.2017
Rally Finland 27.07.–30.07.2017
Rally Germany 17.08.–20.08.2017
Rally Spain 05.10.–08.10.2017
Rally Great Britain 26.10.–29.10.2017
Rally Australia 16.11.–19.11.2017