Tommi Mäkinen will be happy if Latvala and Hänninen get to the...

Tommi Mäkinen will be happy if Latvala and Hänninen get to the finish in Monte Carlo

Jari-Matti Latvala, Toyota
Jari-Matti Latvala / Source: Toyota

Toyota completed its testing program ahead of its return to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) after a break of 17 years and is ready for the legendary Rallye Monte Carlo.

Led by four-time World Rally champion and quadruple Rallye Monte-Carlo winner Tommi Mäkinen and with a strong driver line-up consisting of Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hänninen, the team has all the ingredients in place ahead of this exciting adventure.

Tommi Mäkinen, Toyota Team Principal:

“The most important thing is to go to Monte-Carlo with a relaxed and open attitude. It depends so much on the conditions there and everything can change in a split second. It’s hard for me to say at the moment where we really are in terms of performance and it’s unlikely that Monte Carlo will give us any definite answers either, as it is such a different rally to everywhere else.”

“The tight schedule has been the biggest challenge. Of course all the teams have had to build new cars from scratch this year, but they can rely on experience from the past. I can pass on a little bit of my personal experience to our drivers from Monte Carlo, but in the end it’s all down to them and the car now. Our target is to get good mileage from this rally, so I will be happy if we have both cars at the finish and arrive in the same minute as the leaders. That would be a fantastic way to continue our development, which is always an ongoing process. As we say in Toyota, we should keep continuous improvement: we just keep on making the car ever-better!”

Jari-Matti Latvala:

“Two months ago, I would never have imagined that I would be starting Rallye Monte Carlo with Toyota, so that’s really exciting. 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.”

Juho Hänninen
Juho Hänninen / Source: Toyota
Juho Hänninen:

“I’ve done Rallye Monte Carlo four times before, but just one time with a WR car. And actually the last rally I did was Finland in 2015 so as you can imagine I really can’t wait to get started now! I’ve had a very good feeling with the Yaris in testing but of course you never know what happens when you put numbers on the doors, and it’s been quite a long time since I last competed.”

“I’m not thinking so much about the result in Monte: I just want to have a relaxed drive and of course get to the finish. We still have plenty to learn but I think it will get easier once we are into the season.”

“This is the first rally I will drive with Kaj and he is a fantastic guy to work with: I think I have spent more time with Kaj than with my family over the last few months with all the preparation we have done. In fact the whole atmosphere within the Toyota team is very nice: It’s a family feeling, which is something that Tommi has taken care of. The guys have been working so hard, but they are still smiling and joking all the time. Like me, everyone is really looking forward to getting started.”