The Mexican city that provides one of rallying’s greatest stages

The atmosphere at Guanajuato is like no other

Thierry Neuville

The Lucha Libre. Few embraced it quite so fully as eight-time World Rally Champion co-driver Julien Ingrassia. Next week’s Guanajuato ceremonial start won’t be quite the same without the famous Frenchman and his colourful mask.

The preferred headgear of Mexico’s most famous professional wrestlers is always a talking point on the eve of some of the season’s most demanding gravel stages – and Ingrassia could always be relied upon to whip one out of the door pocket, don it and ramp up excitement among a crowd already nearing delirium.

Welcome to Guanajuato the night before. Recce done, shakedown done, it’s time to head down the road. Straight on at Silao and straight into the world’s most colorful city.

First thing you do as a rally fan on arriving in the centre of this UNESCO World Heritage site? Get beneath it. Head for the tunnels.

Kalle Rovanpera

Rally México has made World Rally Championship history in so many ways, but taking the WRC subterranean for the first time in 2011 was, quite literally, on another level.

Watching the cars dive down from the center of the city into a network of tunnels originally created to divert a flooding Guanajuato River away from the silver mines is one of the sights of the season.

But how can that be? This is ‘just’ a street stage; a precursor to the incredible action which will take us into and through the weekend ahead.

Guanajuato is so much more than a street stage. It’s an emotional and borderline spiritual experience. Simply sitting here typing about it raises the hairs on the back of the neck. The noise, the fervour and the fever of the occasion is out of this world.


Such is the noise coming from the thousands of folk packed around you, it’s hard to hear the cars being launched off the line just a handful of meters away. Trust me, it takes a lot of cheering, whistling and Mexican music to drown out a World Rally Car slipping into stage mode.

Without a doubt, it’s the best of its kind. And the drivers never tire of it. Yes, the traffic can be a little bit painful – even with the friendliest and most enthusiastic police force – and it does mean a bit of a late night before an early start on Friday, but it’s more than worth it.

And the best bit? The passion doesn’t die once the leaders have been through. The crowd remains in place from the first car to the last. It’s not hard to see why. People want this night to last forever. It’s a long time until next year.