It's nice to back in a warm climate and back on the loose stuff (gravel) for this week's Rally Mexico. Even at a test last week in the south of Spain, the feeling in the car back on the gravel felt a bit like a 'home-coming'. However, despite the recent result we are keeping our expectations in check for what is one of the most challenging events of the year.
There are several aspects that make this rally stand out from the others. Firstly the altitude can sap up to 50bhp from the cars, which means that you have to try and drive the car a bit tidier. Also no driver likes getting power taken away - but its important to understand throughout the event that it is the same for everyone. With some stages reaching up to 2,700m above sea level, its not just power loss we have to contend with, but the warm conditions combined with thin air can create some heating issues with the engine and brakes. Of course we hope we are prepared for this but when you go to extreme conditions like this for the first time with a brand new car, there are always some unknowns.
Lastly - while the gravel roads are generally smooth, they are narrow and technical in sections, which can also be quite slippery. But the rocks and obstacles lay very close to the road edge (as we found out last year) and in every year of the 13-year history of this event - it has been a rally of attrition. So the focus has to be on staying out of trouble.
This rally is also unique for the longer stages, especially the mammoth 80km stage on Sunday morning - the longest stage in the WRC since 1983. To put it into context, this will probably be a 50-55min stage, with temperatures up to 55 degrees in the car, little airflow and hot dusty conditions. It will be a big challenge for everyone but one that I'm looking forward too. Regardless of length of stages or events, we train to be as fit as we possibly can for each and every rally, and this stage in particular will put us to the test - but we are ready. It is also an unknown how the tyres will handle this stage - so this rally will not be over until the last stage.
We had a good 2-day test last week on gravel getting our base setup not only for this weekend, but also for the gravel events in general. Obviously we will fine-tune this throughout the weekend, but the feeling in test was very good and gives us a good base to work from.
We will start fourth on the road for this event (our championship standing) which, while is not the best position, is still not bad. The benchmark for everyone remains Sébastien Ogier and he will have the worst of the conditions being first on the road. Both here and Argentina we would like good strong results, but they are events that we lack experience in and we need to focus on getting the miles and knowledge here for the future. It is also my 50th WRC start so would be nice to celebrate that in style. When I think 50 starts it makes me feel a little old, but then again Sébastien is starting his 100th WRC event here, so it means we still have time.
As always we will keep you posted throughout the rally - you can find all the quick links for the weekend on our website www.haydenpaddon.com.
Enjoy your weekend and talk soon