How Guanajuato takes rallying to the people

In Mexico, a WRC starting ceremony is no mere formality. It's a full-on party

Thierry Neuville Hyundai Rally Mexico WRC 2020

How must it feel to be a rockstar? Fans screaming your name, feeling invincible because of the love of the people. Only a select few of us on this planet can resonate, but some of those are drivers in the World Rally Championship, thanks to Rally México.

Rally drivers don’t tend to perform in front of big crowds like other sports stars do. Of course, passionate fans will trek out into the wilderness to catch a glimpse of their heroes hanging it all out through a fast bend or threading their machine through a tight sequence of bends, but this requires a dedication that doesn’t appeal to the masses.

But Rally México takes the WRC to the people. And not just any crowd of people, one of the most colorful crowds and atmospheres to rival any sporting occasion. We’re of course talking about the ceremonial start in Guanajuato.

Can we really call it a ceremonial start? That feels like an undersell. Perhaps a carnival is a better word for it. The atmosphere in downtown Guanajuato on the Thursday evening of rally week is simply unlike anything else on earth.


Unconvinced? Consult the archives and just soak it all in as the drivers are paraded and adored in a festival of color and noise. Or consider this testimonial from 2003 World Rally champion and 2005 Rally México winner Petter Solberg.

“It is the best start ceremony in the whole world championship,” he says.

“In Guanajuato, to get that atmosphere through the small streets, the tunnels, you can’t beat it. There’s always been a lot of Norwegian fans there also because there’s a lot of students, so it always had a special atmosphere with these people also.

“It’s always the people who make the biggest differences on the rallies and the passion they have there, the weather, the roads, the food – all this combined always makes Rally México special and of course we have won it also, that also helps!”

Remember what we said about feeling like a rockstar? Listen to Mads Østberg, a veteran of 139 WRC rallies in 20 different countries.

“It’s one of the first rallies I’ve been to in the past where I’ve felt like a rockstar. They have this unique way of cheering and supporting the rally,” he describes.

“I think rally is a big sport in Mexico and you can really tell when you do the stages in Guanajuato and also down in León. So it’s really unique and has lots of spectators and they are not as quiet as the Europeans, let’s say!

“They bring a really loud and positive vibe to the whole event.”

The atmosphere is so legendary that it’s become one of those bucket-list rallies for all drivers to do. Like Adrien Fourmaux, who’ll get his first Mexican welcome on next month’s Rally of Nations Guanajuato.

“I really want to see the atmosphere and enjoy it,” the M-Sport driver says.

“I’ve been watching this [Guanajuato] stage all the time when I was watching on WRC. So yeah, I will be interested to see.”

In short, it’s infectious. There’s simply nothing like Rally México.