With Rally México two days away, Max Rendina did his first test in a Ralliart Italy-run Mistubishi Lancer Evo X on the Mexican gravel.
Normally competing in an R4, Rendina has regular seat time in the R4 version of the Lancer on Tarmac events at home in Italy. Only last week he competed in Rally Valli Arnaresi, finishing first in his class and third overall on the 50km event. However, his last event in the N4 specification car was Rallye Monte Carlo in January this year and his last gravel outing was a full eight months ago. Winning the WRC 2 Championship Group N Cup category at in Monte Carlo has left Rendina in a strong position heading into his second nominated event of the season here in Mexico, but he’s very aware of the challenges he’ll face on only his second ever event outside Italy: “For me every WRC event is a new adventure. Before Monte Carlo I’d never competed in another country. Only two months later, I find myself in Mexico – quite a change! I’m ready though – the place is nice, it has a good atmosphere and I like the weather, the food and of course the Service Park.”
Mexico presents unique challenges in terms of altitude. The Service Park is the highest on the WRC calendar at 1,800m and the stages are up to 2,600m above seas level. This altitude means there is less oxygen as the barometric pressure drops. This in turn limits the amount of air the engine can take in and, therefore, the engine power. In these conditions, the amount of fuel in the car must also be reduced to get it going at a decent speed, but the less fuel, the less energy, which limits the horsepower. It’s a tricky compromise for engineers and a strange sensation at first for any driver, but Rendina is unfazed by the task before him: “I’m not worried about the altitude. I’ve been training a lot – I run at least 10km every morning to maintain by overall fitness and my focus is on completely all the stages and successfully finishing the event. I have more experience and am generally stronger on asphalt. However, my additional confidence on Tarmac can lead to me pushing too hard. On gravel, I have a good record of consistency and a high finish rate. I drive in a more measured way and I’m conscious not to overdrive or try to drive beyond my capabilities until I’ve got a feeling for the Mexican roads.”
Today’s test, gave Rendina his first taster of what is to come this weekend. With his first 50km of Mexican stages under his belt he’s found a whole new level of enthusiasm for the event ahead: “I can’t wait to start the event. Ralliart Italy is a very experienced team. They’ve won three Production car world titles, one even with a Mexican driver! The test today was very useful. The team were very professional and helped us a lot. With their help, we found a good feeling quickly, but we worked to find the best possible set-up and tried various options to make sure we feel confident in our Mitsubishi from the first stage!"
Ralliart Italy Team Manager Bruno De Pianto is pleased with countryman Rendina's progress and looks forward to the event ahead: "Max's attitude is great. He's focused and very positive. I'm sure he will tackle the stages confidently, but sensibly. I know that his focus is on the Group N Cup standings, which means he must drive steadily and not push too hard on his first ever long haul outing. Now we have to wait and see what happens this weekend, but I'm sure he'll do the best job possible."