Evaluating Mexico’s “mini WRC” rally return

Colin Clark and Rally of Nations Guanajuato manager Gilles Spitalier reflect on this year's event, and the vision for a WRC future


Rally of Nations Guanajuato is now over for another year. Europe has been crowned victor after some last minute drama for Norway, and excitement unfolded everywhere you looked.

At the end of the rally, DirtFish’s Colin Clark sat down with Rally of Nations Guanajuato manager Gilles Spitalier to reflect on the success of the event.

The Rally of Nations 2022 has been a remarkable success.

Well, yes, it has been. Taking it back from the forgotten ideas that we had in 2009, the return of Rally of Nations is a good thing. I think everybody was happy with it. It was an amazing race where until the end, we didn’t know which size of boots to get ready for the podium!

As you say, everyone that came here, they enjoyed the atmosphere. Most importantly, they enjoyed the rallying. We saw again world-class stages prepared out in the countryside.

We say we did a mini-WRC and in fact, everything that we prepared for the WRC was set. The roads were regraded; we have this amazing new forum, the Rally Campus, that is the same where we used to be but now it’s all-new. And we wanted to showcase all of this.

We’re on the balcony of the media center. We’re looking onto the incredible pavilions you’ve prepared for the WRC teams. No matter the stages, it is a world-beating service park. You have everything in place here.

We have been very lucky in that since 2004, when León was a small city and they had small infrastructure with few hotels here and there, to what it is today – even if I have dreamt about it – I would not compare to this.

You said this was a mini-WRC event. In 11 months time, we want to see the real WRC back here. Where are we? How close are we to securing a spot on that calendar for next year?

We are definitely talking to WRC Promoter. I guess that they are preparing the championship for next year and we hope that we can hear something pretty soon. Because to get a rally in March ready we need to start working in June. By next June, if we don’t know what’s going to happen, things can become very complicated. The money is always important. The sponsors are there and they are just waiting to hear from us and say ‘let’s go’, and they’re ready to sign.

Obviously the service park is going to be new for next year and that will delight a whole load of people. But you have some other innovations planned if you secure a WRC slot. Tell us about those plans.

Well, we designed a new stage. This was a real trial to see how it works. We’ve been planning it with Patrick [Suberville, rally director] for some four or five years. It’s a mine – they mine for some kind of dirt. Now the mine has gone all the way down to the rock and it’s not good anymore, so we designed a track within the mine. This place is amazing. Nobody knows about it. Not even the people from Leon know about it. But the looks are out of this world. You don’t know if you’re in Arizona or Mexico or if Wile E. Coyote and the Peep Peep [Road Runner] are going to go there! So we intend to do something very special for next year.

It looks incredible. If you put a cowboy on a horse you could have been in Arizona, anywhere. It was just remarkable. We saw it being used for shakedown. We saw it being used in the rally. It’s perfect. It looks great and the drivers enjoyed it.

Yeah, I have another dream. My other dream is that this stage could be both a stage and a superspecial. I can use it as a stage and then at night, we close the eight and make it a superspecial. So we could have something crazy. I’m dreaming about it.

The appetite for rallying in this area. You say the rally service has grown with the town of Leon. The sport has grown with the town of Leon. Leon is rally central in terms of Mexican rally fans. There’s such a desire and appetite to see the sport here.

Today we’ve also had a rally camp. We’re bringing youngsters that have lived with the rally. They’re 16 years old, they were born right with the rally. So this is very interesting, that we have a new generation of youngsters from León and around the stage of Guanajuato, that are ready to start racing. We said, let’s look for the next Mexican champion.