This weekend will see Rally1 cars tackle high altitude for the first time courtesy of Mexico’s iconic mountainous stages located as high as 2,800 metres above sea level, which return to the WRC for the first time since 2020.
In previous years, the thinner air has reduced internal combustion engine power by as much as 30%, although this season the effect will be less thanks to the 100kW hybrid unit fitted to the Rally1 cars, introduced last season.
Unaffected by altitude, hybrid boost will therefore prove to be critical, with crews depending on the short sharp bursts of electric power [130 horsepower] more than at other events.
With temperatures forecasted to reach the high 20s degrees Celsius this weekend, hybrid cooling will prove pivotal and, coupled with rough gravel roads, M-Sport’s Tanak believes the reliability of the hybrid units will be tested.
“You will feel it [if the hybrid fails here],” said Tanak in the pre-event media briefing.
“I think this will be among the most demanding conditions for the hybrid. First, there is the temperature, and then there is the bad compressions and things and g-forces that the hybrid is normally not so happy about, and we will face all these things together here. It is a good challenge for the hybrid I would say.
“In some ways it [the hybrid] helps a bit as we know we will lose quite a bit of [engine] power because of the altitude.
“With the extra electric power it is something that will give a bit for us, but most of the stages are quite long and the boost we get is quite small amounts, and normally you will get it for just one second or even less in some of the long stages.”
Ott Tanak, Hyundai World Rally Team
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
Looking ahead to the event, Tanak will face a difficult task to replicate his win at the previous round in Sweden given the Estonian is starting first on the road as championship leader.
The 2019 world champion is expecting to find the going tough as the road sweeper and is unsure what to expect from this first gravel rally driving the Ford Puma.
“I have done it [start first on the road] before and I know that it will be challenging, if you do a perfect day you can still be last on the list so it will be a tricky one,” Tanak added.
“It is so slow and it is all about the traction so if you physically don’t have it, it is difficult to make much difference.
“For myself, personally it is very difficult to expect something because I have…
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