The opening two events of the WRC season couldn’t be more contrasting. Following the high-speed blast through the frozen Swedish forests, WRC crews make the first of two visits to the American continent for the fast rock-strewn stages of Mexico where high ambient temperatures and altitudes provide the main challenge.
A new addition to the WRC schedule in 2004, the Leon-based event is famed for its compact route and spectacular ceremonial start in the city of Guanajuato, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The start regularly attracts thousands of fans who will get to savor an extra treat this year with the first running of the Guanajuato Street Stage.
Measuring a little more than one kilometer in length, the stage will run through tunnels and high wall-lined cobbled streets with all the action recorded on a close circuit TV system.
But it’s the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains that will continue to host the bulk of the stage action. The high-altitude tests make for spectacular viewing with a mixture of mountain peaks and flat open valleys. The altitude has its downside, however, as the engines struggle to breathe in the thin air and suffer a drop in power of approximately 20 per cent. The road surface is dry and sandy, but with rocks getting pulled onto the road caution is very much the watchword.
Like Guanajuato, Leon will also host a street stage on a temporary course close to the indoor service park. The Leon Racing Circuit is also back on the itinerary although the stages will now be run at night to appeal to those fans unable to watch the action during the day.
New for 2011, the Guanajuato Street Stage gets its first airing immediately following the ceremonial start on Thursday evening. Action at the Leon Racing Circuit will take place at night to appease those rally fans unable to take the day off work.
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