How the WRC looked last time it was in México

After three years of being away, a lot has changed since the World Rally Championship last visited México


It’s been three years since the World Rally Championship last visited Guanajuato and Rally México.

Really, that’s three years too many.

Naturally, a lot has changed in that time. Coronavirus (the very thing that’s stopped the WRC visiting México of late) has been and gone, TikTok now occupies more hours of your day than you’d care to admit, and DirtFish Media is now in its fourth year!

But of course, the WRC is not immune to evolution and although the same three teams – Toyota, Hyundai and M-Sport Ford – remain at the top of the championship, plenty has happened (and changed) since March 2020.

So, as a bit of fun and to potentially make you feel old, here’s a look back at the state of the WRC when it last visited México.

Evans led the championship

As the WRC landed in México, Elfyn Evans topped the championship thanks to a superb victory in Sweden on just his second Toyota start – becoming the only British driver to ever win the winter event.


Not that it was particularly wintry in 2020!

Although he would of course head the standings again later in the season, this was the first time Evans ever led the world championship. But he didn’t have exclusive rights to that honor as Thierry Neuville had amassed the same 42 points as Evans after rounds one and two.

The championship lead was Evans’ though thanks to two podium finishes (third in Monte and first in Sweden).

Ogier was only a six-time champion

It almost feels disrespectful to say it, but three years ago the now eight-time champion was still waiting for titles number seven and eight. He would of course claim those at the earliest possible opportunities in 2020 and ’21.

Ogier was still winless at this stage in his Toyota career too. In the thick of the fight with team-mate Evans and Hyundai’s eventual winner Neuville on the Monte, he had to settle for second before he was unusually beaten by both of his team-mates in Sweden on his way to fourth.


Gap’s finest would settle that score in México, winning the shortened event at a relative canter to accelerate his world title bid.

Tänak’s Hyundai journey had just begun

Recency bias means that Ott Tänak’s time in blue and orange is remembered by most for his valiant efforts in 2022 to produce results in a car and environment he wasn’t exactly pleased with.

So it’s easy to forget that Tänak’s time in Hyundai never started on the right foot either with that plane-style crash on the first morning of the Monte Carlo Rally.

With zero points from round one, the defending champion immediately had his back up against the wall and, considering he was in some discomfort, second place in Sweden was a mighty effort.

Tänak of course wasn’t helped by COVID significantly reducing the length of the season, but it never proved enough for him to retain his title.

Lappi and Suninen were M-Sport team-mates

With Evans grabbing the chance to jump ship to Toyota with both hands, old go-karting mates Esapekka Lappi and Teemu Suninen were paired up at M-Sport to spearhead its WRC challenge.

But the two Finns didn’t prove as formidable partnership as either Marcus Grönholm and Mikko Hirvonen or Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala had in years gone by. In fact, M-Sport only scored one podium all year via Suninen.

That had yet to come ahead of Rally México (as it was in Mexico where Suninen delivered). Instead, it had been a slow but consistent start to the season for Lappi who was adapting to the Fiesta, and it would only get worse when his car burnt out at the end of one of the Mexican stages.

As COVID hit, M-Sport was forced to tighten the purse-strings and the development budget was slashed and several redundancies made.

Loeb’s career looked to have waned

When Sébastien Loeb does eventually fully retire from the WRC, it won’t be his Hyundai years that many remember with fondness – not least Loeb himself.


But the nadir of Loeb’s time aboard an i20 Coupe WRC was the 2020 Monte Carlo Rally where the nine-time champion was a complete shadow of his former self on a rally he, at that time, had won more than anybody.

Put simply, he just wasn’t competitive. While Neuville took the car on to win, Loeb was nowhere, and real questions were beginning to be asked: had ‘le maestro’ finally lost his magical touch?

The same event two years later firmly proved that not to be the case, of course.

Rovanperä had broken his first record

No, not the youngest ever world champion one, or even the youngest ever rally winner. The record Kalle Rovanperä broke back in early 2020 was the youngest ever WRC podium finisher at just 19 years old.

The then WRC2 Pro champion wasted no time in getting down to business for Toyota, breaking that record on just his second ever top-line start in Sweden. A sign of things to come.


But who did he eclipse we hear you ask? There’s actually an entire article on that elsewhere on DirtFish, but for sheer throwback vibes we’re going to give you the answer.

Evgeniy Novikov.

Whatever happened to him?

Latvala was still a driver (just)

Jari-Matti Latvala is now into his third year as the team principal of Toyota Gazoo Racing’s world rally team, but three years ago he was still fighting to keep his driving career alive.

Dropped from Toyota’s lineup as it went for three brand-new drivers in Ogier, Evans and Rovanperä, Latvala intended to complete a part-time program to show his worth – and the first of those was Rally Sweden in a rented Yaris WRC.

Unfortunately the rally didn’t go to plan, as an electrical fault – that caused Latvala’s engine to regularly cut out – on the first day put Latvala out, and he elected not to restart with running at the front and not setting good stage times of no interest to him.

To date, it remains Latvala’s last WRC start. A few months later, a call to succeed Tommi Mäkinen as Toyota’s service park leader proved too good to resist.

World Rally Cars ruled the roost

This is a bit of a disappointing one as it’s fairly obvious, so we almost didn’t include it. But it’s too important a difference between 2020 and 2023 to leave out.

It doesn’t need much explaining though,


First introduced in 2017, the most-extreme iteration of the World Rally Car regulations was into its fourth of five seasons three years ago, with hybrid and Rally1 set to displace it in 2022.

WRC2 was just for ‘pros’

Although the ‘Pro’ suffix had been dropped from WRC2 for 2020, the category was still for the elite Rally2 drivers – unlike today where it’s for everybody.

To compete in WRC2 you either had to be an ex-manufacturer-registered driver or be paying for the privilege of more TV time and better road position/seeding.

Mads ostberg

As such, the field was far slimmer than what we have today. In fact just a paltry eight drivers – Mads Østberg, Nikolay Gryazin, Ole Christian Veiby, Adrien Fourmaux, Rhys Yates, Pontus Tidemand, Eyvind Brynildsen and Jan Kopecký – competed all season, albeit for four different marques.

Østberg eventually won the title in a final round shootout with Tidemand, while the rest of the Rally2 (then often referred to as R5 still too) field competed in WRC3.

Monza was just a racing circuit

Before COVID-19 turned the season upside down, Monza hosted a rally show every year but that was but a minor thought in the brain of any rally fan.