Why Rally México is crucial for its national drivers

Local stars enjoyed competing with WRC-level drivers on last month's Rally of Nations


It borders on cliché to describe Mexican rally fans as passionate. But it’s the truth and then some: exploring self-expression through the automobile is ubiquitous in the Guanajuato region. Simply drive around León for five minutes and you’ll see everything from new Ford Mustangs to a rough-around-the-edges Chevrolet Corsa modified to within an inch of its life.

This is gearhead country. But for any aspiring Mexican hoping to make it to the World Rally Championship, passion is not enough. There needs to be a proper test, a way to compare yourself to the best and discover where there are gains to be made.

Travelling to another continent to compete gets very expensive very quickly. So for the local drivers at Rally of Nations, having Mads Østberg and his fellow WRC-level drivers come to town was invaluable.

It was a life-changing opportunity for Alejandro Mauro. The Leónese driver is embarking on his first season in WRC2 and has been working to find his feet. But when Østberg came into town, it gave him an obvious target and a clear marker for progression: compete against and beat a WRC2 champion.

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Mauro flies over México's famous El Brinco jump

“Mads was like my idol when I was a kid,” Mauro told DirtFish. “All his life was racing; being here and competing with him is something amazing. It’s such a good reference to see his level.”

“My first rally was when I was 18 and I only have five years of career [behind me]. It’s not bad to do these times with not a lot of experience.”

Mauro defeated fellow countryman Ricardo Cordero to seal the final podium position in the overall classification on this year’s Rally of Nations – and, by extension, outscored Cordero in the NACAM and Mexican championships.

Cordero was seventh in class among the Rally2-level machinery in the last two editions of Rally México as a WRC round. But in Central America he’s the benchmark: he’s won the NACAM and Mexican national titles for the last three years in a row.

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The experienced Cordero just lost out to local rival Mauro on Rally of Nations

Last time Rally of Nations was run, in 2022, he could only muster sixth place. This time he was competing for the podium places. Despite being in his early forties and an established star at home, he’s noticing the difference that having an international presence is having.

That applies not only in terms of the testing nature of the added competition, but also the optics of Mauro’s Mexican team standing on the top step of the podium at the finish alongside international stars.

“It’s good for the Mexican rally world,” said Cordero. “Now you can see two Mexican names at the top of the rally and that’s the first time in history, I think. I’m happy about that; to be fighting alongside Mads and [Andrea] Mabellini, it’s great.”

Elevating the level of national competition has become one of the key targets of México being on the world stage. It’s one of the first things Gilles Spitallier, the Rally of Nations event director, highlights as a core positive of the event.

In all the ‘National’ teams, where two drivers are paired together, there is a general mix of experience and youth.

“The fact that we do by teams, teaming youngsters and a ‘master’, I think it’s a very good option to bring all the youngsters up to a better level,” said Spitallier. “I’m very happy to see that the level of the Mexican drivers has gone up a lot. Now we have drivers that have been enhanced. Before we didn’t have any drivers, so that’s a good thing.”

Mauro made a name for himself in León by going flat out over a the famous El Brinco jump, just as Takamoto Katsuta had done a year earlier. México’s hope is that a WRC return will provide more opportunities for its local stars to learn from their experienced global counterparts.