Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team heads to Mexico and the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship next week in upbeat mood, fresh from Jari-Matti Latvala having secured the team’s first victory on Rally Sweden.
Rally Mexico presents a starkly different challenge for Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttilla and team-mates Juho Hänninen and Kaj Lindström. The Yaris WRC will be competing for the first time in a true gravel rally, in temperatures that can reach 30°C and at energy-sapping altitudes climbing to more than 2,700 metres above sea level. The lower oxygen levels at these elevations starve the engine of air and can reduce power by as much as 20 per cent.
The team’s priority remains learning and development of the Yaris WRC, which has proved impressive so far in its debut season.
Latvala is looking forward to a return to Mexico where he was the rally winner last year. He said: Nothing has changed for me since Sweden, but I think this emphasises the importance of just trying to do your best wherever you can and staying consistent. If you do that, you can maybe be in a good championship position at the end of the year, even though that was not really our objective for only the first season.
“There’s always a great atmosphere in Mexico, the fans called me ‘La Bala’ – which means ‘the bullet’ – last time, so I hope not to disappoint them this year!”
Team Principal Tommi Mäkinen believes the Yaris WRC can do well, as most of the team’s testing has been on gravel surfaces, including hot climate running in Spain. He said: “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.
“Since the victory in Sweden it has been incredible, but we are professionals so we keep our feet firmly on the ground. The best news is that rallying seems really competitive at the moment with all the manufacturers in contention and setting fastest times, which I think is great for the sport as a whole.”
The rally will start in the heart of Mexico City next Thursday night, 9 March. The following day the schedule will include the 54.9km El Chocolate stage – the longest of the event – and more crowd-pleasing action in the streets and tunnels of Guanajuato and at the Autodromo de Leon racing circuit. Saturday’s timetable features an evening stage in Leon, followed by the climax of the rally with a power stage on Sunday, in which valuable extra championship points can be earned.
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round two:
1 Jari-Matti Latvala 48
2 Sebastien Ogier 44
3 Ott Tanak 33
4 Dani Sordo 25
5 Craig Breen 20
6 Elfyn Evans 18
7 Stephane Lefebvre 10
8 Thierry Neuville 8
9 Hayden Paddon 7
10 Andreas Mikkelsen 6
12 Juho Hänninen 3
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round two:
1 M-Sport World Rally Team 73
2 Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 53
3 Hyundai Motorsport 40
4 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 26