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: HIGHS OF COMPETITION
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.
ELFYN EVANS AND SCOTT MARTIN
Elfyn Evans has twice finished fourth in Mexico, and the Welshman will want to be in the fight for the top positions again this year. He and co-driver Scott Martin proved their speed with three stage wins in Sweden, and they’ll be ones to watch in Mexico.
Previous starts: 4
Best result: 4th (2015 and 2014)
Elfyn Evans said:
“I’ve always enjoyed Rally Mexico and have had some good results here in the past. I’ve come close to the podium a couple of times, and the aim will be to challenge for the top results again next week. The whole team showed good speed in Sweden, and we want to continue that in Mexico.
“We’ll have a good road position on the first day that we’ll need to make the most of. But this rally isn’t without its challenges. It’s a notoriously demanding event with high temperatures and rough stages. So we’ll need to be fully focused to deliver the best results.
“We’ll also encounter the highest altitudes of the year, and the thinner air can see performance fall by as much as 20 percent. We’ll need to adapt our driving style to contend with that – being really smooth and not so aggressive behind the wheel – to ensure we’re getting 100 percent of the available performance.”
TEEMU SUNINEN AND MARKO SALMINEN
Teemu Suninen may have only contested Rally Mexico on two previous occasions, but he is a previous category winner – securing the WRC 2 victory in 2016. Having led a rally for the first time last month, Suninen and co-driver Marko Salminen are hungry for more and have the potential to impress once again next week.
Previous starts: 2
Best result: 9th (2016)
Teemu Suninen said:
“Rally Mexico and Rally Sweden are two totally different events, but it would be nice to continue our strong performance. We drove a one-day test in Spain last week and, although the temperatures aren’t very close to what we’ll see in Mexico, it was a good opportunity to get a feel for the car at high altitude on gravel.
“The feeling was really good, but there is always a little uncertainty going to the events as we don’t know what our rivals have done. There was that same feeling before Sweden, but our pace was good and we had the speed to challenge for the top results.
“I don’t know if we’ll be able to challenge with the top guys next week, but we’re all working really hard and team have put a lot of effort into the development of the Fiesta. That hard work showed in Sweden, and I hope it will show in Mexico too.
“I’ll have a later start position, but that’s not always a good thing as there could be a lot of stones dragged onto the line. The key for me will be to drive neatly and have the consistency as well as the speed.”