TOYOTA GAZOO RACING SET FOR SNOW AND ICE ACTION IN SWEDEN
The Toyota Gazoo World Rally Team and its drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hänninen will take on the high-speed, snow and ice-covered stages of Rally Sweden next week (9 – 12 February).
They will be looking to consolidate their 2017 learning programme and build on a return to the FIA World Rally Championship that has already yielded an unexpected podium place for Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttilla at the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo. With Toyota committed to the championship for the long term, development of the Yaris WRC car and team progression remain the priorities for this season, rather than rapid stage results.
Team Principal Tommi Mäkinen and Latvala are both three-time winners of the event, and Toyota also has three Rally Sweden victories to its name from its earlier WRC participation. Latvala and Hänninen prepared for the rally with five days of testing in central Finland.
Snow and ice are key to the spectacle and challenge of Rally Sweden, which has been a winter event since it became a founding round of the world championship in 1973. Tyres are fitted with metal studs which punch through the ice to find grip, and drivers use snow banks to keep on the road, “leaning” through corners where the level of snow permits.
Latvala said: “I have some very nice memories of Sweden as this was my first rally win, back in 2008, but the circumstances are very different now. I did some snow testing before Christmas with the Yaris WRC and last week as well, and even in that short time there have been some big improvements in the car and the whole team.”
Mäkinen added: “We’ve had a very busy time since Monte Carlo, with snow testing and also travelling to Japan for the Toyota Gazoo Racing press conference. Sweden has fewer questions for us as we have some idea where we are now in terms of performance, but maybe the expectation is more given Jari-Matti’s second place. We have done a lot of testing on snow and also on gravel. This is really useful as well because the set-up for gravel is not so different to that for snow. This is a very fast rally, but we have found some high-speed roads for testing so we hope that we are quite well prepared.”
The action will start next Thursday evening with the traditional super special stage in Karlstad. Most of Friday’s action will take place across the border in Norway, with the Röjden stage actually crossing the frontier. Crews will demonstrate their jumping prowess on Saturday, negotiating the famous Colin’s Crest – named in tribute to the late British World Rally Champion Colin McRae – on the Vargåsen stage, as the rally returns to Sweden for the final two days. The event concludes with the Torsby Power Stage from 11.18am UK time on Sunday, ahead of the ceremonial finish at the town’s airport, which doubles as the service park. Almost two thirds of the competition route is new for this year, in a total of 331.74 stage kilometres.
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