Bustling Mexico City will stop in its tracks on Thursday when the FIA World Rally Championship transforms the famous Zócalo square into a colourful motorsport fiesta.

Massive crowds will generate a sizzling atmosphere as the ornate colonial architecture of the city's cathedral and national palace provides a memorable backdrop for the opening two speed tests of Rally Guanajuato Mexico.

Live television will broadcast the city spectacular to a global audience as new-era World Rally Cars fight for tenths of a second in the heart of one of the world's largest cities. It promises to be one of the biggest occasions in the WRC's 45-year history.

The square is no stranger to spectacular stunts. It was in the skies above Zócalo that the helicopter fight scene which launched James Bond movie 'Spectre' was filmed.

The entire rally is transported to the capital by air and road from the rally base in León, 400km to the south-east. Competitors will twice drive the 1.57km CDMX Street Stage Presented by Michelin in the square and surrounding streets.

Afterwards the rally returns to León ahead of 370km of gravel special stages over the following three days in the hot and dusty mountains of central Mexico before Sunday afternoon's finish.

The city opening has generated huge anticipation among drivers and teams.

"Mexican fans have a real passion for the sport and there is always an amazing atmosphere," world champion Sébastien Ogier of M-Sport Ford said. "This year's itinerary will take that atmosphere to another level when we head to Mexico City. It has the potential to be something very special that we've never experienced before."

Championship leader Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota) is also looking forward to the huge interest in the rally start.

"The start and first stage in Mexico City is great for the sport and a fantastic way to attract new rally fans," the Finn said. "The atmosphere in Mexico has always been great because the fans are so passionate, and I think in Mexico City their enthusiasm will be on a totally new level."