M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Esapekka Lappi, Teemu Suninen and Gus Greensmith will be targeting new heights when the FIA World Rally Championship turns to gravel at Rally Mexico, which starts today.

The EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC has a strong track record at this breathtaking event - never finishing shy of the podium - and the team are confident of conquering the heights of this much-loved event once again.

“It’s time to see what we can do on gravel, and we’re optimistic about our chances,” said M-Sport team principal Richard Millener.

“We’ve got a good record in Mexico - with victory in 2018 and podiums every year since launching the current-spec cars.

“Rally Mexico is always a highlight for the team and we’re looking forward to experiencing the Mexican hospitality - and pushing for some strong results on the opening gravel event of the year.”

Focused in and around the UNESCO World Heritage site of Guanajuato, Rally Mexico boasts beautiful scenery amidst challenging terrain. The 30°C - closer to 50°C in the cockpit - and the stages rise to more than 2,700 metres above sea level - where the altitude can reduce engine performance by as much as 20 per cent.

The gravel stages can be rough going and the crews must adapt their driving to contend with the reduced power. Mistakes are less easily forgiven, and the engineers must be sure to extract maximum performance at all times.

Despite being one of the most uniquely challenging events on the calendar, Rally Mexico is also one of the most vibrant, and Mexican fans have taken the sport to their hearts.

To best prepare for the challenge, the Cumbrian squad conducted a two-day research and development test at Ford’s state-of-the-art climatic chamber at the end of last year.

Today sees M-Sport’s Finnish driver Lappi making his third start for the team.

Lappi, who sits fifth in the standings, is hoping for a podium finish in Mexico.

“Every time I get behind the wheel I’m learning more and fine-tuning the set-up to better suit my driving.

“We’ve not been too far off challenging for the podium, and I think that has to be our goal in Mexico.”

The team will also have high hopes for number driver, and second Finn, Suninen, who claimed a second-placed finish in the 2018 WRC 2 Mexico event.

Third driver, Greensmith, will be starting his second rally of the season, having missed Sweden, and will be aiming to bounce back after after a disappointing result in the opening round at Monte Carlo.