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PREVIEW: 2019 RALLY MEXICO – THE WRC HITS GRAVEL FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2019

Ott Tanak during Rally Mexico 12 months ago. Photo Credit: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool.The third round and the first gravel event of the year in the 2019 FIA World Rally ChampionshipRally Mexicotakes place this weekend with several drivers wanting to improve on poor results last time out in Sweden.

Getting underway on Thursday evening with a short 1km Super Special around the city of León, round three of the 2019 WRC has a total of 21 stages totalling over 300km of stage miles with the drivers having to deal with high altitude stages, a unique feature of the rally.

Leading the championship coming into the North American event is Ott Tänak after his dominating win on Rally Sweden three weeks ago with the Toyota GAZOO Racing driver having a seven point lead over Hyundai Shell Mobis’s Thierry Neuville.

Despite his lead, the Estonian comes to Mexico knowing he’ll be the first driver on the dusty gravel roads in Mexico which potentially could cost him a second successive win this weekend.

Behind the leading duo in the drivers’ standings and wanting to put a disastrous Rally Sweden behind him is Citroen Total World Rally Team’s Sebasiten Ogier, with the Frenchman aiming for a strong result having retired on the snow event last time out.

Kris Meeke in the second Yaris WRC is fourth coming to Mexico, with the Irishman having quietly impressed so far on his return to the championship. Winner here in 2017 as well as a podium finisher last season while driving for Citroen shows he has the pace for a strong result and is someone to watch closely this weekend.

Esapekka Lappi is another man with possibly a good chance after a strong result in Sweden where he finished runner up behind former Toyota teammate Tänak in only his second appearance for Citroen in the C3 WRC, while Teemu Suninen, who led for three stages on round two wants to show he has the speed in the M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC to be a regular frontrunner.

Lappi finished second in Sweden. Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Hyundai have Dani Sordo in the third i20 WRC Coupe alongside Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen for the first time this weekend as his part-time campaign while sharing the car with Sebastien Leob gets underway.

Mikkelsen meanwhile will be on the hunt to prove a point after being dropped by the Korean manufacturer for the Tour de Corse later this month as they go with nine-time champion Loeb and Sordo for the tarmac event.

The final two WRC entrants this weekend are Elfyn Evans in the second M-Sport Fiesta, who battled for the podium in Sweden and eventually finished fifth and Jari-Matti Latvala who, as with defending champion Ogier, will be out to prove he is capable of being a contender for the championship after retiring in Sweden.

WRC2: Pieniążek Leads Five Car Field in Mexico   

A total of five WRC2 drivers are on the entry list for the first non-European event of the season, with the only PRO competitor being M-Sport’s Lukasz Pieniążek.

Four privateer entries meanwhile are confirmed for the gravel event, with local driver Benito Guerrra, who’s Skoda Fabia R5 caught fire in a pre-event test before last year’s Rally Mexico, battling Marco Bulacia Wilkinsonand Chilean brothers Pedro and Albert Heller, with the latter having won on his last WRC2 appearance in Australia at the end of last season.

Round three of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Mexico, gets underway on Thursday evening and continues until Sunday, March 10.

Source: The Checkered Flag