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Chasing the WRC in Mexico

We arrived in the town of Leon, Mexico for Round 4 of the World Rally Championships(WRC) and the place looked like a mixture of modern architecture and something straight out of the Road Warrior. There were huge junk yards on the outskirts of the city and lots of trucks with external roll bars carrying passengers in the bed on makeshift seats made of garden furniture.

We arrived at the service area just in time to see the drivers returning from the morning stages. Our first impressions of the cars were that they were pretty mild sounding. Unlike some drift cars and open wheel racers that we have encountered, these were not that loud and aggressive pulling into service. However, upon closer inspection we could see glimpses of the technology that these cars possess. From the electronics to the dual reservoir coilover systems, these cars mean business.

A few came back to service experiencing some “environmental hazards”. Apparently, some knuckleheads on the stages were throwing rocks and debris at the cars. A few drivers even complained that they had to get out of the car and open up gates that were closed on them during the stages. Thank god nobody got car jacked out on the stages.

Super Special Stage We then headed out to the Super Special Stage at the Autodrome. This stadium course featuring side by side racing complete with jumps and water hazards is always a fan favorite. The course setup is pretty technical and the racing very tight. It was cool to see how dialed in the cars were in all the conditions on the course; jumps, water, mud, tarmac…etc.

Mountain stages The mountain stages reminded us a lot of the Rim of the World Rally; except here we got free booze provided by the Rally sponsors. Thanks Corona! Out here, we really saw how fast and precise the drivers were in attacking the course. It’s amazing how quickly they descended upon our location after just seeing their dust trails over the ridge a few canyons over. Loeb was a machine out on these stages; so fast and smooth in his driving.

Our tour bus driver also killed it out there; tossing the charter bus around like it was a rally car in the canyons. We found out after the fact that he used to race go karts so plans are in the works to sponsor him for next year’s series.

Closing notes

To BE the Man you have to BEAT the man! Sebastian Loeb returns to the top, finishing first in the Citreon and showing why he was the 2005 WRC Champion.

Ford is as strong as ever with Mikko Hirvonen coming into his own right alongside Marcus Gronholm this year. However, with everyone being so competitive this season (esp. Loeb), they will have to find a way to be consistent every race and keep the other teams away.

Subaru is back! The team ran the new ’07 STi at this rally and the car showed some big improvement over last year’s model. Petter Solberg loved the car and won the first couple of stages before bowing out to mechanical problems. Chris Atkinson finished 5th for the team and got them some important points in the manufacturer’s race. We expect to see Subaru back in the hunt this year with the new cars.

X Games champ and all around good guy Travis Pastrana made his WRC debut at this event picking up a 5th in P-WRC and a 15th place overall. Travis is running 2 more P-WRC events this season and a full season next year. This may be America’s greatest hopes of crowning a future WRC champion so keep your fingers crossed.

We had a blast at this event and although there is no final word yet on whether the series will be back in Mexico next year, we hope things will work out in the end. If not then we will just have to petition for a US stop next year. In the meantime, Go Rally!

WRC Website: www.wrc.com

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