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 this 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 Dovenby Hall-based 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.”

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 this 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,” he added.

“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 per cent.

“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 per cent of the available performance.”