The gravel stages of Rally Argentina will provide the next challenge for Toyota with drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hänninen. After the asphalt test of Corsica, round five of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) means a return to gravel action and a return to Latin America, where the team will look to build upon the lessons learnt on March’s Rally Mexico and further the development of the Yaris WRC.
Rally Argentina features varied gravel stages: some take place on high-speed soft and sandy roads in the valleys, while others are run on rocky mountain tracks. This can make car set up and tyre choice more difficult, as each type of stage poses its own challenges. The softer stages are prone to becoming heavily rutted as more cars pass over them, while fog and even ice can sometimes be found in the mountain sections, with weather conditions often changeable.
Latvala took victory in Argentina in 2014, while Hänninen is also a previous winner, in 2010 when the event was not part of the WRC schedule but was a part of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
In order to prepare for Rally Argentina, both drivers took part in a pre-event test on the Italian island of Sardinia, which is quite representative of the roads in Argentina, and will also host round seven of the World Rally Championship in June.
Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal):
“As a driver, I always thought that Argentina was a fantastic rally, with gravel and cool conditions, so it’s likely that we can expect mixed weather once again this time. We learned many useful things from Mexico in particular, with the gravel and high altitude, which will be useful for Argentina. We’ve been improving the car with every rally, so our goal is to see another improvement in Argentina. I think we’re in a stronger position now than we were going into Mexico, so we can aim for a good result.”
“I’ve always had a very good feeling with Rally Argentina. We’ve won it before. And even last year we were leading until we had a problem and went off on Saturday afternoon. The first two days are fast and flowing. Then the last day is slower and more technical. The stages are tricky, featuring lots of corners and the possibility of very bad weather conditions, especially fog. Although the roads tend to be soft and sandy there is generally quite good grip. I have been working on the differential settings in particular: I didn’t feel that they were the best for me in Mexico, so that is something I really wanted to improve for Argentina, and we have some good solutions now.”
“I have many fond memories of Argentina, so I’m really looking forward to getting back there after many years away as it’s one of my favourite gravel rallies. It’s not just the stages that are fantastic. There are also the fans, who are so passionate about rallying: even on the road sections. Of course, one big unknown is the weather. Everything is possible over there, which makes it difficult if the stage conditions change after the recce. In any case, it won’t affect our set-up a lot. If it’s really muddy you can make the car a bit softer but we won’t make any big changes. Whatever happens, it’s important just to drive naturally without feeling too much pressure.”
— WRC (@OfficialWRC) 16 April 2017