Last year, high temperatures and stage altitudes of up to 2700 metres took their toll on the all-new Yaris and caused overheating issues that plunged drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hänninen down the order.
Latvala especially suffered on Friday’s opening stage when the water temperature rose to 135°C. He was forced to drive some sections in road mode to cool the unit, while the heat also affected his brakes and centre differential.
But Toyota Gazoo Racing team boss Mäkinen expects a different story this year, and wants to build upon upon a promising start to the season that has placed the team second in the manufacturers’ championship, just one point behind leaders Hyundai.
“We have done quite a lot of work to improve from last year, when Mexico was quite tough for us with our new car," Mäkinen explained.
"Since then we have analysed everything that happened. We have improved the cooling, and we have improved the engine. We have even been in an altitude dyno in Japan. We have put quite a lot of effort into these areas and I hope that altogether, it will be enough to give us a competitive package, but we will only know for sure once the rally gets underway.”
Latvala holds third place in the drivers’ standings and is feeling upbeat ahead of his return to Mexico - an event he won with Volkswagen in 2016.
Latvala said: "It’s clear that the performance is there in the car. We had a good gravel test in Spain last week: of course in Mexico it is going to be warmer but it is the best you can do in Europe at this time of the year. We had some updates to the suspension and I could feel that the traction and the grip under braking are better than what we had at the end of last year.”