M-Sport has completed almost 1,500 kilometres of loose-surface testing in a bid to continue its run of podium finishes at the championship’s third round, Rally Guanajuato Mexico, (9 – 12 March).
The British-based squad is currently 20 points clear at the head of the manufacturers’ standings, thanks to wins on the opening round for Sébastien Ogier and a second place in Sweden for Ott Tänak, and team principal Malcolm Wilson is keen to see the team excel in Mexico where the Ford Fiesta WRC will make its gravel debut.
As part of its preparations, M-Sport organised a gravel set-up and durability test at the end of February during which its Fiesta covered 1,470 kilometres – amost four times the rally’s stage total of 369km.
Wilson said: “We’ve had a fantastic start to the season but the next challenge is just around the corner as we debut the Fiesta on gravel. We completed a lot of kilometres at our pre-event test and learnt more about the car set-up which we hope will pay dividends next week.
“Of course there’s no substitute for competition, and I think everyone is on tenterhooks waiting to see if we can continue the strong performance shown on the opening two rounds. I see no reason why we can’t do that and, even though we’ll be hampered by road position through the early stages, a podium has to be our aim.”
Ogier, the rally winner in 2015, 2014 and 2013, starts as one of the favourites to do well this week, and his cause will be helped by a championship position that for the first time since 2014 does not have him as road opener.
“But it will still be a big challenge. We’ll be the second car into the stages so we’ll still have to contend with quite a lot of road cleaning,” Ogier explained. “We’ll need to try to stay as close as we can over the opening day and then see what’s achievable when the conditions become more consistent.
“We’ve had a good start to the season, but now we’re going to experience something totally different. This is where we’ll get a feeling for these new cars on gravel and where I’ll get to experience the Fiesta’s performance on this kind of surface. We had a really useful test with a lot of kilometres, but there really is no substitute for competition.”