Can you feel the excitement in the air? Rally of Nations Guanajuato is now just days away from beginning. World class drivers, world class cars and world class organization – that is one very promising recipe for a very big success.
But this isn’t a new feeling for the team behind Rally México. In fact it’s déjà vu – we were here 13 years ago.
And it’s to the organizer’s credit that it has managed to reinvigorate the Rally of Nations concept and make it feel fresh, while inviting some of the legends that took part in 2009 back for 2022.
Just like this year, Rally México found itself off the World Rally Championship’s global tour in 2009 as part of a rotational system of events. But rather than take a year off, the organizing team wanted to keep Mexico’s world rallying flame burning.
Rally of Nations was the solution: a rally, but not like any other. Drivers would still compete against the clock to set the quickest time, but the rally result was more like a championship – decided by points, not minutes and seconds.
That’s because, as the name suggests, Rally of Nations was in effect a collision between the WRC and the Olympic Games. Drivers were entered in teams and competed for their country, not just themselves.
Points were awarded for each stage time and the winning nation was the one that had amassed the most points across the event from its two drivers.
The entry was eclectic: a mix of local heroes, current and aspiring rally stars and legends of the WRC. A total of 16 teams representing 13 countries – Austria, Ecuador, Finland, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Sweden, Spain, Uruguay and the US – all entered, mostly competing in Mitsubishi Evos.
Finland had arguably one of the strongest lineups with two WRC podium finishers in Harri Rovanperä and Toni Gardemeister, but 1994 World Rally champion Didier Auriol and 2003 JWRC champion Brice Tirabassi for France, Austria’s Manfred Stohl and Andreas Aigner as well as Sweden’s Patrik Sandell and Per-Gunnar Andersson all represented strong competition.
But it was Spain’s Xavier Pons and Dani Sola that cleaned up and won the first ever Rally of Nations – right when Spain was used to success on the international sporting stage with its Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 trophies in soccer.
Austria was second – despite Stohl and Aigner finishing a clear 1-2 on accumulated stage times – with France rounding out the podium in third. There were big cheers for the second of three Mexican teams too as Ricardo Triviño and Rodrigo Salgado combined to deliver the home crowd a top five result.
But above all else, Mexico kept the attention of the international rallying world. With Auriol and Rovanperä back in the mix as well as current M-Sport Ford driver Adrien Fourmaux, this year’s Rally of Nations Guanajuato will achieve the exact same goal. And it’ll do so in the entertaining and innovative fashion that only the Rally México team knows how to provide.