For Many years the high altitude event in Mexico has hampered Ford’s old Focus RS WR cars, but after special laboratory testing of their 1.6 litre turbo engines, they’re hoping to be able to battle with their rivals in the thin air of Guanajuato.
The Mexican gravel event located in Leon, 400 kilometres north-west of the capital Mexico City, features stages that climb to more than 2700 metres above sea level, making it the highest event on the 13-round WRC calendar. Because of the high altitude and thin air, the cars engines can loose around 60hp, and is something that Ford have regularly struggled with the old Focus RS in the past.
To try and avoid the problem with the new Fiesta RS, the team spent two days in the Environmental Testing Laboratory at Ford’s Dunton Technical Centre where it was able to run the engines of its Ford Fiesta RS WRCs at altitudes encountered in Mexico. During Ford’s pre-event test in Portugal, the team’s engineers also replicated the predicted power levels they will experience in Mexico to help its drivers gauge different braking points.Jari-Matti Latvala’s rally engineer, Tim Jackson explained to WRC.com “Altitude is a major challenge in Mexico and we know the engines will be down on power compared to Sweden,”
Ford also hopes its switch to a six-speed gearbox with its Fiesta, having relied on a five-speed for its previous Focus model, will also aid its cause in Mexico.
“The torque of the old [2.0-litre] engine was a lot flatter so if you were ever in the wrong gear coming out of a corner you could get away with it,” said Jackson. “With the high-revving engine and a six-speed gearbox we can use the optimum power of the engine all of the time, which is particularly important in the altitude.”
As well running the new 1.6 litre World Rally Cars at high altitude for the first time, Ford and their rival Citroen will also be putting their cars through their paces in high temperatures in Mexico, which impose greater stresses on the cars engines, transmissions and tyres, as well as the drivers and co-drivers, who will endure higher temperatures in the cockpit throughout the weekend.
“When there is less air it’s more difficult to refresh the brakes, cooling systems and engines, which suffer more when you have hot weather,” said Xavier Mestelan-Pinon, Citroen’s technical manager. “It’s a big challenge.”