The history of Rally Mexico, a WRC event closest to the clouds
The Rally Mexico, which is currently one of three Latin America’s rounds in the World Rally Championship, together with Rally Argentina and Rally Chile, is a part of the world’s premier rally competition since 2004. The main characteristic of this gravel rally is the highest altitude of special stages in entire championship, with some stages taking place at 2700 meters above sea level, what significantly reduces a power of rally cars.
The main Mexican rally event was created back in 1979 as Rally America, being folded few times before FIA took the event into consideration for the WRC. From 2001 to 2003, Rally Mexico was a WRC candidate event and then, in 2004, the World Rally Cars came to Mexico for the first time to fight for the championship points.
Rally America is the predecessor of Rally Mexico
The story about Rally Mexico started in 1979 when two largest clubs in Mexico, the Club Automovilistico Frances de Mexico (CAF) and the Rally Automovil Club (RAC), organized the Rally America. It was originally hosted in the State of Mexico and ran continuously until 1985.
After five seasons without a rally, the event ran again in 1991 and then it was cancelled again in 1992. Two editions followed in 1993 and 1994. The Rally de las 24 Horas became the CAF’s flagship event in 1995 and 1996, so there was no Rally America in that years.
Moving to Leon and planning to enter WRC
In 1997, the CAF and its new promoting partner Rallymex moved the event to the US border in Ensenada, Baja California, starting to attract more international entries, so the winner was an American driver for the first time.
In 1999, the organizers decided to rename the event and move it to Leon in the state of Guanajuato, where the rally is placed still today. The long-term plan was to include Rally Mexico into the World Rally Championship.
WRC candidate event from 2001 to 2003
Year by year, the event was growing and attracting more and more international entries. In 2001, the rally became a part of the FIA observation programme as WRC candidate event. In 2002, the WRC-winning Peugeot Total team sent one crew to Corona Rally Mexico, with Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietiläinen in the #1 Peugeot 206 WRC. They won a rally.
The 17th Corona Rally Mexico in 2003 proved to be the crucial turning point. The spectacular opening ceremony, many international crews and compact route proved that the organizers are ready for WRC.
Markko Martin as the winner of the first Mexican WRC event
In 2004, the Corona Rally Mexico was finally included into the World Rally Championship calendar, which was expanded from 14 to 16 events that year. It was the 18th edition of the rally but, due to promotional reasons, the rally has been renamed to the 1st Corona Rally Mexico.
Rally Mexico took place in March and it was the third round of the championship. The inaugural winner of the Mexican WRC round was Markko Martin in a Ford Focus RS WRC, beating his teammate Francois Duval and Citroen’s Carlos Sainz. In 2005, the event was again the third round of the championship. Subaru’s Petter Solberg took the victory ahead of Ford’s Marcus Gronholm and Markko Martin. The event also counted for Junior WRC points, with Guy Wilks taking a victory.
Six consecutive wins for Sebastien Loeb
Sebastien Loeb captured his first win at Rally Mexico in 2006, driving a Citroen Xsara WRC for Kronos Racing. In the next two editions, he won again in a Citroen C4 WRC. It’s interesting that Sebastien Ogier was a winner of Junior WRC category in 2008, driving a Citroen C2 S1600.
In 2009, due to Round rotation system, Rally Mexico was not a part of the World Rally Championship. The event was run as the International Rally of Nations and Manfred Stohl was the winner.
In 2010, WRC returned to Mexico and Sebastien Loeb continued to collect wins. He won one more time in a Citroen C4 WRC and then two times in a Citroen DS3 WRC.
Four wins for Sebastien Ogier
Sebastien Loeb left WRC in 2013 and Sebastien Ogier became a new ruler both in the championship and at Rally Mexico. Ogier scored three consecutive wins in a Volkswagen Polo R WRC in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Ogier’s teammate Jari-Matti Latvala manage to beat the Frenchman in 2016. Kris Meeke (Citroen) was the winner in 2017, with Ogier again on a podium in the second place. Ogier returned to the top podium spot in 2018, driving a Ford Fiesta WRC.
Photos: Rally Mexico,