M-Sport Ford World Rally Team set for return to the challenging gravel roads of Rally of México, round three of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship.
This year’s event will see the North American debut of the Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 as it tackles the unique challenges of Rally México in the capable hands of Ott Tänak and Pierre-Louis Loubet.
Not run since 2020, Rally México is known for its high altitudes and scorching temperatures, which make for a technical and physical challenge for both the crews and the Puma Hybrid Rally1. Mexico marks the first gravel event of the 2023 season, the most common WRC surface type, and having a competitive gravel car from the outset has been a key objective for the team during testing.
The team is heading to Mexico reenergised from victory on Rally Sweden with Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja, catapulting themselves to the top of the championship standings on their second WRC outing in a Puma. Tänak’s impressive performance and determination have positioned him as a top contender for the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship with his Sweden victory giving him further motivation for the title.
For Pierre-Louis Loubet it will be his first time competing on Rally México. The team is excited to see Loubet in Mexico after his gravel performances in 2022 which saw him lead a rally for the first time in his career while also taking his maiden WRC stage win.
Tänak and Loubet recently completed a pre-event test in Spain at altitude in an attempt to simulate some of the conditions of Rally México. Both drivers enjoyed trouble free days while gaining crucial mileage, completing a lot of work on chassis and transmission set up.
Adrien Fourmaux and Alexandre Coria join the team on Rally México, making their second WRC2 appearance of the season in a Fiesta Rally2. Although it is the French crew’s first Rally México, they have important experience and road knowledge of the event after finishing second overall on Rally of Nations Guanajuato in 2022.
Richard Millener, M-Sport Ford Team Principal, said: “It’s great to be heading back to Mexico this year, the event has become a modern classic in the WRC and we have missed not going there for the past two years. From the drivers’ and test team’s feedback, we are confident in the Puma’s ability to tackle the tough conditions that are typical of Mexico. Ott’s recent win in Sweden has given us momentum and we are ready to carry that into the upcoming round. We have done what we can to take on the unique challenge of Mexico, the team’s effort, and commitment in preparing the cars for Mexico has been second-to-none as we are determined to continue on from the success of Sweden.”
Ott Tänak, M-Sport Ford World Rally Driver, said: “During testing it was my very first time on gravel in the Puma Rally1 and it was very important to discover as much as possible. As most of the rallies are on gravel, we decided to do two test days in Spain. The team is working hard to keep improving, but to really understand where we are now, we need to do a gravel rally first.
“The key challenge for Mexico is the altitude and temperature together. Because of high altitude, the power is reduced which makes the behaviour of the car quite different. The roads in Mexico are actually fun, there are stages which are very technical, and it feels like we are driving them forever in the high temperatures, but there are also faster sections with big compressions and jumps. As we are leading the championship, we need to start first on the road on Rally México, it could be a good place to start if it rains, but not sure I’m that good a (rain) dancer to get the rain in a place where it almost never rains!”
Pierre-Louis Loubet, M-Sport Ford World Rally Driver, said: “It will be the first time I am competing on a rally outside of Europe, that will be a new experience again for me. It’s exciting to be going back on gravel as my pace on gravel is good so my aim is for a strong result in Mexico.
“I think my experience of Greece and Sardinia last year will help me; things change rally to rally but experience always helps massively. The preparation for this rally has been good as it has been running for such a long time and there is a lot of material out there to help me study the roads. The test was fine, I am really happy about it because I re-found the feeling that I had in Greece last year and the car felt really strong. I think we have everything we need to do some good things and have the pace so let’s see.”
Adrien Fourmaux, M-Sport Ford WRC2 World Rally Driver, said: “It will be my second time in Mexico, last year I competed there in the Rally of Nations and finished second, so I am happy to be back there in a rally car. After our Monte-Carlo result our expectation is to fight for the best result as possible as we need the points for the championship. We know it’s always a tough rally in Mexico because it is really rough for the cars so it will be a big challenge for everybody. I am really pleased to be driving the Fiesta Rally2 again and can’t wait to get back on gravel stages!”