The Ford team has endured a troubled start to this week's Rally Mexico, with a watersplash on the shakedown stage slowing the factory Focus RS WRCs. Winner of the opening round of the World Rally Championship last month, Mikko Hirvonen was three seconds slower than his chief rival Sebastien Loeb on the five-kilometer test.
The Fords struggled to cope with the deep watersplash near the end of the shakedown, which represents the teams' final opportunity to check their cars before this evening's ceremonial start in Guanajuato. The water flowing into the front of the Focus was disrupting the cooling package and blocking the intercooler, which cut the engine power.
Hirvonen admitted this had not been the start he had been hoping for in central America.
"It hasn't been the best of mornings," he said. "We were diving into the deep water and the water pushed the cooling package into the wrong position. And then on one run we had a small problem with the clutch which didn't help me when I was trying to do one proper run.
"It's not bad. This is why we do the shakedown stage, to find those kind of things. It's been raining here until two weeks ago and there's more water in the crossings than we've seen before here."
Britain's Matthew Wilson was another victim of the deep water in his Stobart Ford.
"We had a few dramas in the watersplash," Wilson added. "We went through the water in first gear – we couldn't have gone any slower but it still happened.
"It's a shame, there were a few things which we'd wanted to try on the car before the start, things like working on the pitch for the ride height and things like that. But it's okay, the car felt good in shakedown and we'll just have to play with a couple of things when we get started on the event."