The hot, dusty and mountainous Rally Mexico might be a world away from his native Finland, but the terrain nonetheless certainly seems to suit Mikko Hirvonen when it comes to racing.

The M-Sport World Rally Team driver has claimed the runner-up spot on his last three appearances here, and together with co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen he can boast more starts than any other crew in the championship, the pair having contested the rally on no less than eight previous occasions.

"Jarmo and I have done well here in the past so hopefully we can continue that this year," said Hirvonen, insisting that there was no mysterious secret to his success here. "I wouldn't say that there was necessarily a key to doing well here. Like all events, you just need to avoid mistakes.

"The altitude makes a big difference in terms of performance. You don't have as much power so you need to consider that and it does inevitably alter your driving," he explained. The crucial thing is to carry the speed through the corners as you can't gain it back so easily on the straights. But as you're trying to go flat-out through every bend, you need to be careful as sometimes that can take you by surprise.

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The route of the rally climbs over 2,500 metres through the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains, and the oxygen-starved air can see engine performance fall by as much as 30 per cent.

Added to the difficulty, the event also boasts some of the longest stages of the entire WRC season. Two passes of the sweetly named 'El Chocolate' (44.03 kilometres) on Friday, 53.69 kilometres of 'Otates' on Saturday and the longest test of the rally, 'Guanajuatito', at 55.92 kilometres, on Sunday's final leg mean that every day will be a challenge.

Hirvonen was unfazed by the prospect, however, saying that he really enjoyed the long stages.

"It's a nice change as we don't see them so often anymore," he said. "It's a good challenge for a driver as you need to be really focused and keep concentrated, but even if you make a small mistake you have the opportunity to make it back.

Having already undertaken a full day's testing in Northern Spain in his Ford Fiesta RS WRC car in order to re-acclimatise to gravel rallying in the expected conditions, Hirvonen is certainly aiming to improve on the fourth place that he claimed in the previous event in Sweden, with a podium very much on the cards he aims to extract further speed and assurance from the loose-surface speed tests.

"Hopefully we'll be on the pace in Mexico," said Hirvonen. "We had a good event in Sweden, but we weren't quite there so let's try again and see what we can do."