In preparation for the Leon-based event – which goes live next Thursday evening with two passes of the carnival-esque ‘GTO’ street stage – the Japanese squad spent time in Spain testing at the start of the month.

The focus of the exercise centred on improving the supermini’s reliability on rough mountain roads – something that proved to be its Achilles’ heel last season at Rally Sardinia and Acropolis Rally Greece. On both occasions, the Yaris was noticeably off the pace and meant all three drivers left both events trophyless.

Despite failing to finish on the podium, it didn’t prove detrimental in the team’s quest to clinch a sixth manufacturers’ title. Equally, Rovanpera did not allow those setbacks to derail his pursuit of a breakthrough drivers’ crown which the Finn went on to clinch aged just 22 years and one day.

Following the test session in Spain, Rovanpera is convinced the Yaris is going to be a more potent force compared to the version he campaigned last year alongside countryman Jonne Halttunen.

“As a team we have been doing a lot of work to improve the car and the pace for rough gravel conditions, and it was nice to see already in our recent test in Spain that we’re definitely moving in the right direction,” was the assessment of Rovanpera who is currently second in the standings

“It is nice to be going back onto gravel after quite a long time, and it has been especially long since we were last in Mexico. I am sure it is going to be a tricky event like always; with the high altitude it is one of the most specialised gravel rallies on the calendar. But it’s really exciting to go back there.”

Given his early Championship position following last month’s Rally Sweden which M-Sport Ford’s Ott Tanak won and, in the process, ended the Blue Oval’s 13-month wait for another win in the series, he will start second on the road for Friday’s eight special stages.

Surrendering a few points to his Estonian rival on the end-of-rally Power Stage was a calculated move by him as it was felt even the slightest advantage could prove crucial if he is to secure a first victory of the 2023 title fight.

“I am quite happy not to be starting first on the road in Mexico – just one position can make a big difference,” explained Rovanpera. “It might still be tough compared to those starting behind us, but we will of course do our best.”