Mexico voted into the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship For the first time in history, Mexico will host a round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The organisers of Corona Rally Mexico have successfully secured a date in the 2004 World...
Mexico voted into the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship
For the first time in history, Mexico will host a round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The organisers of Corona Rally Mexico have successfully secured a date in the 2004 World Rally Championship calendar and the Leon-based event will run as the third round of the series between 12-14 March.
This is a significant moment for Mexico, as not only is it the first time World Championship rallying has come to the country, it also marks the return of the sport at its highest level to the North American region after an absence of 15 years. Commenting on the realisation of a dream five years in the making, Juan Suberville, President of the Organising Committee said:
"I feel overwhelmed; there is not really any other way to describe the feeling of pride I have for everyone. We have been preparing for this moment for the last five years, working body and soul, and it is the achievement of a lifetime. Now we have more consciousness of the size of the package we have landed for our country, but we have no doubts we can do it. There is clearly a sense of nervous anticipation though! Support from the State of Guanajuato is there, we know that, so we are moving ahead with confidence. Securing a round of the World Rally Championship for Mexico makes me extremely proud; now we can dream of having one of the best events in the series."
Over the last few years, the State government, municipalities and cities of Guanajuato, Leon and Silao have pledged unrivalled support to Corona Rally Mexico and its bid for inclusion in the World Rally Championship, recognising the opportunity to showcase the country through world-class motorsport. Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, the Governor and highest ranking politician of the State of Guanajuato, said:
"We feel honored that our State has been chosen to host Corona Rally Mexico, and on behalf of the people of Guanajuato I extend a warm welcome to the international rally community who will be honoring us with their presence and allowing us to enjoy a magnificent show. Our State, by tradition, has always been a hospitable place; the friends who visit us can enjoy its beauty as well as visit cities of great industrial and cultural development; it is a unique place where people of all ages can join together."
Adding to his comments, Leon's Municipal President Luis Ernesto Ayala Torres said: "We look forward to expressing a warm greeting to everyone who comes to Rally Mexico, part of the 2004 World Rally Championship, for which Leon, Guanajuato will be the official host city. We are excited and enthusiastic about the scale of this event and its high level of competition, and I believe the people of Leon will have the same feeling, especially those who closely follow this intelligent and technically demanding sport. This World Rally Championship event strengthens Leon's position internationally, and for that we have gratitude."
Grupo Modelo, through its Corona Extra brand, will continue to support Rally Mexico when it makes its debut in the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship. Corona Extra, which has been the event's title sponsor since 1999, is the number one selling beer in Mexico and the leading export brand from the country. It has also been the fastest growing imported beer, in history, in the United States and is now available in more than 150 countries worldwide.
"We have been working with the organising team for many years now because we all saw the potential for the World Rally Championship in Mexico," commented Martin Orbea, Special Events Manager for Grupo Modelo. "This has always been a partnership and a shared dream, something we have had enormous faith in, and we are delighted it has come to fruition. Corona Rally Mexico will be a unique event in the series and we are extremely happy to be the title sponsor of what will be one of the largest events in the country."
Corona Rally Mexico, the third round of the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship, will be based in Leon, 300 kilometers to the north of Mexico City. It is the fifth biggest city in the country with 1.2 million inhabitants, the largest in the State of Guanajuato and boasts a population of 50 million within a 400 kilometre radius. The highly-acclaimed Poliforum 'Rally Campus', in the centre of the city, will once again host Rally Headquarters.
Reaction from Juan Suberville, President of the organising committee, Corona Rally Mexico
This is the first time Mexico has ever hosted a round of the World Rally Championship. It is the ultimate achievement - what does it mean to have led Corona Rally Mexico into the series?
"Firstly I must say that our Rally Director, Patrick Suberville, led the team - he led all of us and of course we are extremely proud. I think the achievement is the work of a lifetime in the sport. I remember when I was a co-driver 30 years ago, sitting in little cars competing over dirt roads in Mexico. Back then I never dreamt we could have a World Rally Championship event here, never mind us be the ones to organise it! From those days to where we are now - having secured a WRC event for our country - is simply amazing, for all of us."
This is history in the making for Mexico. What impact do you think this world-class event will have on the country and the State of Guanajuato?
"The State of Guanajuato has told us that the rally had a significant economic impact over the last two years and it is anticipating this to double next year. The Governor and the entire cabinet are thrilled; they see this as a great promotional opportunity and have pledged their total support to the project, so I think it can only reap greater and greater rewards. The sport is still growing in Mexico and it is not well-known all over the country - it is our responsibility to change this."
The State Government, City of Guanajuato and municipal authorities have given total support to Corona Rally Mexico. How important has this, and the support from other organisations, been to the development of the event?
"It has been enormously important and each and every organisation is part of our success today and the reason we are part of next year's World Rally Championship. The support from the Government of Guanajuato has been growing year by year and it provides enormous help with police, hotels and other services. We have their total backing for 2004 and I think maybe this is quite unique compared to some other events. Corona has been with us for many years; they shared our dream which is also exceptional, and we are looking forward to further developing and enhancing our partnership with them and all our sponsors."
It has obviously taken a lot of hard work and dedication from everyone associated with the rally to finally realise this dream. What has been your long-term strategy for inclusion in the World Rally Championship?
"Our planning started about five years ago and it was always our thinking to get into the World Rally Championship. We had a business plan and in the first year we ran a small rally, very quietly. The second year things moved up a gear and then we went for observation by the FIA in 2001. I think this is very much the same path for all events. We had a plan and the plan has happened exactly as we thought. Maybe there has been an extra year's cushion to get into the World Championship, but now is the right time - this is the right year for us."
What do you think ultimately made the difference this year?
"That is a tough question because we thought we ran a good event last year too! Looking back though I think one of the main points is the venue, a key point actually. The Poliforum provides fantastic facilities seen no where else in the World Championship. Also, many people from the FIA came to Mexico this year to really talk about it and touch the rally for themselves. Obviously we have had observers in the past, but never the level of people we had this year. Maybe the FIA wanted a rally in Mexico and when these people saw our organisation was very good and that the mountains and roads were in top condition, everything was instantly married."
The event obviously ran to a very high standard this year so do you envisage there being a big transition to World Championship level?
"This year's event completely complied with FIA regulations and in 2004 this will obviously be the same, but clearly the rally will be different because of the level of teams who will be coming. There are many top people who will come with a lot of experience and that is really the biggest consideration and what we have to plan for the most. It is not something that is easily practiced though until you are actually part of the series. We know the rules and the regulations and will work very hard to make sure we know how to react to situations with the team principals and leading drivers. We have no concerns about the running of the event at all, or the infrastructure we have here because I think it more than equals what everyone expects. We are never complacent though and will do everything we can to make sure our event is perfect for everyone."
What unique qualities do you think the teams, drivers, media and people visiting the rally will find in Leon and the State of Guanajuato?
"First of all they will find the Mexicans, and that is very important! Mexican people like big parties, they like international visitors and they love to welcome people and show them their country. That is the most important thing. The second biggest thing is that they will find the organising team is young, smiling, willing and ready to do everything possible to ensure everyone is happy, about everything. And thirdly, they will find a state and a city that is large, clean and has everything available for them to have a very good stay. There are many good restaurants, hotels and good places for parting. They will find themselves very much at home in our country."
The objective of being included in the World Rally Championship has now been achieved, so what are the future goals?
"We will be looking to establish the rally so we can run it with great confidence, but our immediate goal is to be one of the top three rallies in the Championship next year. At the same time we are always looking to develop the event and make improvements, and we have a good team capable of recognising those opportunities."