Motorsport: Toyota ready for return to WRC

The WRC Toyota team tests the new Toyota Yaris WRC 2017. Photo / Getty Images
The WRC Toyota team tests the new Toyota Yaris WRC 2017. Photo / Getty Images

Toyota Gazoo Racing has completed its testing program ahead of its long-awaited return to the FIA World Rally Championship after a break of 17 years and is ready for the legendary Rallye Monte-Carlo.

The event takes place from January 19-22 on tricky mountain roads when conditions can vary between dry asphalt, ice and snow.

Led by Tommi Mäkinen - four-time World Rally champion and quadruple Rallye Monte-Carlo winner - and with a strong driver line-up consisting of Jari-Matti Latvala, one of the fastest rally drivers in the world, and the vastly experienced Juho Hänninen, the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team has all the ingredients in place ahead of this exciting adventure.

While Toyota has enjoyed considerable success in the World Rally Championship in the past, the Yaris WRC project represents a new chapter in the company's long and illustrious motorsport history with its continued commitment to making ever-better cars through motorsport. Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team is keeping its expectations for 2017 firmly in check as it prioritises car development and learning over outright results.

The legendary Rallye Monte-Carlo is the oldest rally in the world and runs for the 85th time in 2017. It also marks the start of a new era for the WRC with revamped technical regulations resulting in faster, wider, lighter and, above all, more spectacular cars.

At just under 380 timed kilometres, Rallye Monte-Carlo is not the longest event on the calendar, but it's probably the trickiest. Changeable weather and stage surfaces mean tyre choice and car set-up are often compromised, while the role of the ice-note crews, who provide last-minute information on stage conditions, becomes even more crucial.

"Two months ago, I would never have imagined that I would be starting Rallye Monte-Carlo with Toyota, so that's really exciting," driver Jari-Matti Latvala said.

"In total I've done 12 days of testing: four days on snow, one day on gravel, and seven days on asphalt. That's a good amount of testing and we've made some useful steps in that time.

"The car feels very strong but in terms of performance it's difficult to say, as everyone comes with a new car. In any case this year is all about development: For Monte I would like to finish the rally well, then maybe towards the middle of the season we can start to think about podiums.

"Monte-Carlo is so unpredictable that it's not a good idea to set too many targets: in 2015 I didn't have a particular plan and I finished second, so in 2016 I was aiming for the podium and then I ended up making a mistake.

"For any driver, Monte is quite a big stress during the event, because of all the unknown factors and tyre choices, but when you cross the finish ramp in front of the Royal Palace on Sunday, it is one of the best feelings you will ever experience in the sport."

- NZ Herald

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