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GP Week : Issue 176
WRC >>> FEATURE 27 year-old Benito Guerra (Benito Ivan Guerra Latapi, Jr) outdistanced his Ralliart Italia teammate Michal Kosciuszko to clinch the latest and last Production Car World Rally Championship title, the Group N based series which has been run by the FIA every year since 2002 as a world championship category. Victory by Guerra was a major success for Mexican motorsport, the first time the country has had a world champion motorsportsman since Pedro Rodriguez won the world sports car championship in 1971. In the 26 years it has been run, the Group N series has been a truly global activity and very popular with drivers from Latin America, with earlier titles going to Gustavo Trelles from Uruguay and Gabriel Pozzo from Argentina. We asked if the Latin American heritage was Benito's motivating inspiration: BENITO GGUERRA: Gustavo Trelles was a great driver, he won the Spain championship first and then he became Production Car World Rally Champion four times. I have been trying to follow his steps but I’m not planning to stay in Group N for as long as he did! I hope that winning this title is enough to get me a chance to become a world championship driver in a World Rally Car. I would love to be able to compete in a maximum rally car. Anyway, the world championship is amazing for me, the chance to follow my heroes like Sebastien Loeb, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala. I would like to be like them. I am really really happy to win the title because this was my chance to put my name in the record books, and we did it. And it was my last chance to win the Production championship, because of the changes coming in 2013 when it will not be a world series any more. So it is amazing, the greatest day of my life. The end of the PCWRC tradition is sad. Is it a sign that the top end of the sport has moved away from being a sport for production cars and turns instead to be a sport for special cars? How easy is it to drive a car which is not designed for sport compared of course with all these other cars which are designed for sport? Its very difficult; sometimes we are suffering a lot because of the weight of the car. These cars are very heavy. We don’t have enough power sometimes to get the car out of the corners. When you try getting into the slow corners you feel it is heavier than the other cars, but you have to remember that you are not fighting the car but with other drivers driving the same cars as you, so you only have to beat them. In the WRC2 championship next year it won’t be the same. Group N drivers will have to compete against people driving Super 2000 cars and of course the 1.6 turbo RRC cars which perform like World Rally Cars. If you know how to succeed with a Group N car, that makes you a more complete driver. You can proceed on to a Group R2, R3, 5 or Super 2000 car, then a World Rally Car. Group N was hopefully my chance to get to the next step, to be in a higher-level car. I don’t know what’s going on for me next season (2013) but I’m sure this year Group N gave me my best possible chances. Now that NACAM has become an official FIA championship do you think that this will help to develop rallying in Latin America? I hope so. I hope this new series will open the door for new Latin American drivers to come to Europe to learn, because that is the way to progress. I was not learning enough about rallying in Mexico to progress in the sport. I had to go to Spain for three years. I won their national Production Car class and then won the Spanish gravel championship outright in 2010 and that was the kind of experience that gave me the chance to fight for the chance to get into the world championship through the PCWRC in 2011. In the first year in the Production Car series we ended sixth overall in the championship and this year we fought for the title from the beginning of the season. We won in Mexico, we won in Argentina and now we won in Spain and had a second place in Germany. In Greece and Italy we were having problems with the suspension but we made SupeRally in both these rallies but we managed to get enough points to become world champion. You have been rallying Mitsubishis for six or seven years, but you have a lot of experience in the last four years with Evo X cars. How does the (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) X compare with the older cars? I think the X is much better for me. I have been driving the Evo X since 2009 and have learned a lot with the X, and I think that in the fast corners the Evo X goes much better. The Mitsubishi is a great car. Maybe with the Evo IX you can be more aggressive but the Evo X is more precise to drive. Then of course there is the Motorsport Italia factor. They have already twice been Production Car World Champions with Armindo Araujo and now champion with you. That is quite a tradition? On the podium our guys put a flag which said “Sorry we did it again – Ralliart Italia” so they were really happy . They worked very, very hard. They gave me great cars and they deserve this because they have worked a lot all the season and I’m really happy for them, for me, for all the sponsors and also a great result for Mexico. What is the secret of the success at Ralliart Italia? They prepare very good Mitsubishis; they have a very good engineer in Alex Seagala. Jack de Keijzer the coordinator is also very clever, very experienced as well. They know what to do and which moment you will have to do some things like changing wheels, changing compounds of the tyres, checking if the fuel level is enough or not enough for the stages. They manage to give you a very good car in the best condition as possible, and I think that is the thing. Ralliart Italia is a professional Production Car team, so I hope my future path is to stay with Motorsport Italia next year. And wouldn't it be nice to drive a Mini for them? Benito Guerra – 2012 Production Car WRC Champion 44 GPWEEK.com // 44 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: