Makinen's Mexico Questions
Tommi Makinen says the chances of his Toyota team extending its run of excellent results will depend on how the new Yaris WRC copes with the heat and altitude of Rally Guanajuato Mexico [March 9-12].
Four weeks after Rally Sweden, when Jari-Matti Latvala delivered the first victory for Toyota in the WRC since 1999, the team is in an upbeat mood as it heads to round three.
Mexico is the first true gravel round of the year and is known for ambient temperatures of around 30°C and a route that peaks at 2,737m above sea level, starving engines of air and cutting power by as much as 20 per cent.
And it's the heat and height that give Mäkinen the biggest concerns.
He said: “The majority of our testing has been on gravel, so we can be reasonably confident of this surface as we head for Mexico, but there is one question mark: the combination of high altitude and high temperatures.
"Last year we tested on gravel in Spain with ambient temperatures of up to 40 degrees and the engineers have also done a lot of work on the engine mapping for altitude, but until you experience these things together for real, you never know."
And as he prepares for the third fresh challenge in as many rallies, Mäkinen is taking nothing for granted.
"Since the victory in Sweden it has been incredible, but we are professionals so we keep our feet firmly on the ground," he said. "We know that difficult moments can happen even more easily than happy moments, which is why we are working harder than ever."
Latvala won in Mexico last year but is expecting to face a different event this time when he will run first on the road on the opening leg.
“I have some very happy memories of Mexico after I won last year, but I also know some of the reasons behind it," he explained.
"I started with a good road position, towards the back, and I took advantage of the cleaner roads to take a big lead – while the people at the front were really struggling. So this year for me, it’s going to be the other way round! In these circumstances, you have to take away what you can and I would be really happy with a place in the top five."
Toyota's 2017 WRC season so far