The Toyota World Rally Team faces a fresh challenge on Rally de España (October 5-8): the only round of the FIA World Rally Championship run on both gravel and asphalt. This mixed-surface event will provide a thorough test of the development of the Yaris WRC during its first season. Already, the car has won on snow in Sweden in the hands of Jari-Matti Latvala and on gravel in Finland with Esapekka Lappi. There was progress on asphalt too. In Germany, Juho Hänninen finished fourth and all three drivers took stage wins.
Historically, the Spanish WRC round of the WRC was on the smooth, fast and flowing asphalt roads of Catalunya, which are similar to racing circuits in their characteristics. Since 2010, there is a day on gravel before the asphalt. Teams transfer the cars from gravel to asphalt specification within a 75-minute service on Friday evening.
Tommi Mäkinen (Toyota Team Principal)
“Spain will be something completely unknown for me, as I have never driven the rally like it is nowadays with a mix of gravel and asphalt. I don’t know what to expect personally, but of course, Jari-Matti knows the challenges very well. Having two surfaces will require work from the engineers and the mechanics, as well as quite a lot of extra equipment. I am sure though that everybody is prepared and knows what to do when the cars arrive at service in order to change all the necessary parts. We have been making some good steps forward with the car and I hope that with more new items and new ideas, we can make some small improvements again in Spain.”
“I like the combination in Spain of having the first day on gravel and then two days on asphalt. They are the best asphalt roads in the championship – as close to a race circuit as is possible – and the gravel stages are also quite good. I did two days of testing for Spain: on the asphalt, we were focused on the suspension, and on gravel, we concentrated on the differential. The change of surface creates extra work for the mechanics and the engineers, and as drivers, we need to adapt our driving style overnight. Our car showed winning speed on gravel in Finland and the performance was also there on asphalt in Germany, so I believe we should be very competitive.”
“The car has felt good in testing, just like it did in Germany. We plan to continue in the same way in Spain. Friday will be challenging for me because the stages are exactly the same as recent years and I haven’t done this rally for a while, so I will need to push a lot on Friday in order to be in the fight. But unless it rains like last year, I don’t think the time differences will be too big. Then there will be some new stages on Saturday and Sunday, which should help.”
“Spain is a really challenging rally with the mix of gravel and asphalt. It’s a completely different type of rally to what we are used to. The gravel part is similar to Portugal in my opinion, and then the asphalt stages are quite unique: I think they’re the best stages on asphalt in the world. They are pretty clean and smooth, and are not as twisty as Corsica and not as narrow as Germany, so really enjoyable to drive. I’m really looking forward to it. There were some ups and downs in Germany but in the end, we could match the speed of the others and our performance should be good on both surfaces.”
— TGR_WRC (@TGR_WRC) October 2, 2017