Another gruelling gravel event lies in store for the Toyota Rally Team on round seven of the 2017 World Rally Championship: Rally Italia Sardegna. The team continues to develop its Yaris WRC challenger during its debut season. For the second event in a row there will be three cars entered, driven by Jari-Matti Latvala, Juho Hänninen and Esapekka Lappi, who scored points on his top-level WRC debut in Portugal. Lappi’s car will be a test and development car, designed to help accelerate the evolution of the Yaris WRC during this learning season.
Latvala, who currently sits third in the drivers’ standings, is a former winner in Sardinia, taking victory in 2009 along with four other podium finishes over the year. Hänninen has also contested the event four times in the past but not recently, while Lappi has previous experience from his WRC2 campaign.
“After Portugal, we now have another very tough rally, in Sardinia. Our cars will not be so different to how they were in Portugal. But we learned a few things there that I hope will be useful in Italy”, team principal Tommi Mäkinen commented.
“Sardinia will be hot and rough with a big risk of punctures. But the drivers are very professional and they know what to do. I would like to see three cars at the finish. If we can score some points as well, then even better. We’ve got a good development plan for Sardinia, with Esapekka as well, but the most important thing is to do the mileage so that we can learn as much as possible.”
The number one driver in Toyota – Latvala – also pointed out that the Sardinia event will be “much hotter and more slippery than Portugal, with a bigger cleaning effect”
“Punctures are going to be the big thing”, he continued. “The surface is quite hard, the roads don’t get so rough or degrade on the second passage but any loose rocks don’t get pushed back into the surface either. Instead they just stay on the road and this is what can puncture your tyre or even damage the damper. There are some things that you can do to change your driving style to try and avoid this: you have to be very careful of the rocks on the insides of corners.”
The car of Esapekka Lappi will be a test and development car, designed to help accelerate the evolution of the Yaris WRC during this learning season
Juho Hänninen did a two-day test in Sardinia before Argentina.
“That was quite a long time ago and of course conditions were much cooler. But it still gave us a good idea of what the roads were like. The advantage of the heat is that it actually makes the tyre choice a little more straightforward. That is one less thing to worry about. Portugal was a good event for us and we learned plenty of things there. So if we can have another clean run then we have a great chance of scoring more points. I think our road position on the first day could help. Then we have to make the most of the conditions to the end”, he added.
According to Esapekka Lappi Sardinia “has always been one of those rallies that is more about survival than raw speed. I just want to have a problem-free rally and get to the finish. I think I’m going to be trying some new parts on the car. So my job is to collect data for the team and gain more experience. We had a good result in Portugal, but that only alters the expectations from other people. It doesn’t make any difference to me personally. Before Sardinia I had a one-day test in Finland to get more of a feel about how I can set up the car. Obviously, Finland isn’t the same as Sardinia. But I did around 150 kilometres, which was useful just to try some different suspension settings.”
— TGR_WRC (@TGR_WRC) May 21, 2017