Ahead of Rally Mexico, we caught up with our engine engineer, Jonathan Airey. Nowhere is the engine more affected by its environment than at Rally Mexico, and Airey revealed a little about his career as well as what it is that makes the Mexican fixture so unique.

How long have you been with M-Sport?

I’ve been with M-Sport three and a half years now, but what I did before that might be a bit of a surprise – I worked in a pub! My background has however always involved engines in some form or another. I started my career working with turbos at Holset before moving to Cosworth which is where I first encountered M-Sport – working on the Ford Focus RS WRC engines in 2000.

What does your job entail?

It’s simply really – my job is to get 100 percent of the available performance from the engine whilst maintaining reliability and looking for further improvements within that performance. It’s a challenge, but it’s also a very enjoyable one and we’re constantly evolving – working to be the best and to beat the best.

Nowhere is the engine more affected by its environment than at Rally Mexico, why is this?

Mexico is definitely the rally where the engine is most affected by its environment, and that is because of the altitude. We rally 2,500 metres above sea level which reduces the barometric pressure by about 25 percent. That effectively means that there is less air; and the less air we have, the less power we can produce. In essence, it means that it takes longer to get back up to full speed. It’s something we work to control, but it’s also something that the drivers need to be constantly aware of out on the stages.

How does the team compensate for this?

It’s all about getting 100 percent out of what’s available. We have a base map for every rally which is set to certain temperatures and pressures. At sea level, we will make slight corrections to the map to get the most out of the engine. But in Mexico, where the conditions are widely different, we need to make big corrections.

We’re lucky enough to have access to Ford’s climatic chamber in Dunton which is a huge advantage when it comes to preparing for an event like Mexico. Using Ford’s facilities, we’re able to run the engines under controlled conditions which emulate the altitude we’ll be faced with in Mexico – ensuring our settings are as perfect as they can be before traveling to the event.

What are your hopes ahead of next week’s Rally Mexico?

Everyone has put a lot of hard work into this season and we’ve had a fantastic start so far. Naturally, we want to see that performance continue and to see the fruits of our labour having put a lot of time and effort into ensuring we have everything just right for this unique event.