Jari-Matti Latvala is confident the new Fiesta RS WRC will be 'fully competitive' in Mexico this weekend.
Ford have struggled in recent years in Mexico, but the M-Sport-run outfit has pulled out all the stops to ensure the Fiesta won't be as badly affected by high altitudes as the Focus.
Indeed to be fully prepared for such conditions, the team tested a Fiesta RS WRC for two days in the Environmental Testing Laboratory at Ford's Dunton Technical Centre in Britain recently to simulate the altitudes encountered in Mexico.
The team also replicated predicted power levels during pre-event testing in Portugal to help the drivers gauge the different braking points.
Latvala now feels the 'Blue Oval' is well geared-up for the 2011 event, even if his crash in testing, his second in as many pre-event tests with the Fiesta, did disrupt preparations somewhat.
“The final day of my pre-event test in Portugal was dry, which is how Mexico will be,” said the Crash.net
columnist. “It was ideal, and the team was able to modify the engine to reflect the power levels we can expect at altitude.
“I've opted for a less aggressive set-up and I'm confident the car will be fully competitive there.
“Conditions will be different from the first round and everyone will look at the times to see how the new cars perform on gravel for the first time.”
Latvala, who has competed in Mexico four times – his best result, a third place in 2008 - will run third in the order on the opening day: “It's one of the rallies which is slippery for the first few drivers because of the loose stones. I'm third in the order for the first day, which is reasonable,” he continued.
“I expect the guys behind to be strong as the roads become cleaner. The number of starters is smaller than usual though [just 25], which might help us.
“The tracks should stay quite clean for the second pass, because there aren't many local drivers down the order.
“They take different lines in smaller cars and often mess up the clean roads again,” explained the Finn.