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M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen will be looking to show the speed of the EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC on gravel when the FIA World Rally Championship ventures to next week’s Rally Mexico.

The first loose-surface event of the year took place at last month’s Rally Sweden and the team proved their potential with five stage wins on snow and ice. Suninen led the rally for the first time in his career, and the team will be looking for more of the same when they swap icy forests for dusty mountains.

A two-day test in the hills north of Barcelona allowed the team to replicate the expected altitude, and the crews to reaffirm the sensation of driving on gravel. The test was supplemented by a further two days at Ford’s state-of-the-art climatic chamber in Dunton – perfecting the engine maps to ensure optimum performance at high altitude and temperatures.

Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:

“This is the first gravel event of the year and I’m excited to see what we can do. I think we made our intentions pretty clear in Sweden – with five stage wins we’re not just here to make up the numbers. We’re here to challenge for the top results, and I think we’ll have a good chance of doing that next week.

“Elfyn and Teemu both have the speed, and they’ll both have a good road position on the first day that we will need to make the most of. We need to work on our consistency, but if we can do that I see no reason why we can’t bring some trophies home to Cumbria.”

Rally Mexico is truly unique with high altitudes and temperatures to test both man and machine. The 30°C heat can be closer to 50°C in the cockpit. The crews must be in peak physical condition, and every technical component must also be able to withstand the punishing temperatures. If that weren’t enough, the stages climb more than 2,700 meters above sea level where the oxygen-starved air can see engine performance reduced by as much as 20 percent.

The drivers must adjust their driving to contend with the reduced power, and the engineers must be sure to extract maximum performance. The gravel stages can also be rough going, especially over the second pass, and the crews must maintain their concentration levels to avoid the pitfalls that make this a true rally of attrition.

Yet despite being one of the most challenging events on the calendar, Rally Mexico is also one of the most vibrant. The Mexican fans have taken rallying to their hearts and their enthusiasm is best captured in the historic town of Guanajuato – the colours, sights and sounds of the opening super special not to be missed.