All eyes on México as Rally of Nations returns next week

The stages are set, it's time to bring some colour to the 2024 season. It's time to go to México

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One of world rallying’s most innovative events will return to México next week (Feb 23-25) as stars of the sport arrive in León for the third Rally of Nations Guanajuato.

Back after two years, the León-based event is one of the sport’s most exciting formats, pitching nation against nation in a world cup of rallying. The players, like the pitch, are world class.

Two decades on from México’s debut in the World Rally Championship, the stages used next week remain as popular and challenging as ever. From the extraordinary, subterranean and standard-setting superspecial to the fast, slow, rocky and remarkable roads which follow, it’s no wonder they still rank among the drivers’ favourites.

Talking of the drivers who will take the ceremonial start on Friday evening, no team has as many world titles as France as Didier Auriol returns to Rally of Nations and is joined in a second Mitsubishi Lancer Evo by… Julien Ingrassia. Eight-time world champion Ingrassia’s shift from the co-driver’s seat to the one behind the wheel will be one of the event’s talking points next week.

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Harri's back. Rovanperä Sr was one of the superstars last time out and this time around he's in the RoN Defender squad

Niki Schelle led Europe to Rally of Nations victory in 2022. The German starts as part of the RoN Defender team with Harri Rovanperä as a team-mate. They will be running Toyota Yaris Cup cars.

The winning team is decided via a Rally of Nations co-efficient scoring system which levels the cars by offering, broadly speaking, less points to faster machinery. There is, of course, an outright event winner as well. Mads Østberg took the laurels in ’22 and is back chasing more of the same this time around. The Norwegian star drives a Škoda Fabia Rally2 and shares Team Scandinavia with Dennis Rådström (Yaris Cup).

American Conner Martell leads a CanAm team with a pair of Yaris Cup cars for him and his Canadian team-mate Joel Levac. Britain is represented by Max McRae (Yaris Cup) and Tom Williams (Mitsubishi), while Patrice Spitalier (Citroën C3) and Ricardo Cordero (Renault Clio) front México’s top team.

The event starts with a Friday afternoon shakedown, before the crews head south for one of the season’s highlights: Street Stage GTO. They will complete two passes of the 1.11-kilometre all-asphalt test before returning to a new service location in León.

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Østberg won the 2022 RoN on the stages, but his team just lost out in the classification. The Norwegian will look to put that right next week

Saturday and Sunday are typical World Rally Championship days featuring stages like Ortega, Las Minas, Duarte and the awesome run from Derramadero to El Brinco. Added into the mix is the stunning Las Dumas stage – pictures from which featured among some of the WRC’s most popular last season.

A final Sunday afternoon dash around the streets of León brings the Rally of Nations Guanajuato 2024 to a close.

Event director Gilles Spitalier told DirtFish: “We love this event! It’s fantastic to bring the passion and emotion to the streets of Guanajuato and to the people in and around León. Two years ago we saw an incredible battle between Europe and Norway – I think the competition will be just as tight this time around.

“Welcoming names like Rovanperä, Auriol, Ingrassia, Østberg, McRae and the rest is really important for us. We have fantastic drivers and teams coming from right around the world to do battle on what we believe to be the world’s best stages next week.

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We will use this rally to build more innovation and evolution, so we can come back to the WRC even stronger. Gilles Spitalier

“Keeping the momentum of Rally México running is vital. We have fantastic investment and partnerships from Guanajuato State and the municipalities – this is the 200th anniversary of Guanajuato’s state declaration and, of course, it’s 20 years since the first WRC Rally México.

“We have a lot to celebrate and a lot to look forward to. For example, this year we are moving the service park to a different place in León. We will be in a [shopping] mall, right in the middle of the population. This gives us the chance to introduce new people to the event and to the sport of rallying – they can buy shoes and enjoy the rally.

“Like we did in 2022, we will use this rally to build more innovation and evolution, so we can come back to the World Rally Championship calendar even stronger.”

Guanajuato start RoN 170224

Guanajuato provides one of the season's highlights and next week will be no different as rally cars go underground once more