Four-strong Toyota Gazoo Racing squad to push for more Portugal success

7 May 2024

Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team will take on the Rally de Portugal this week (9-12 May) with a strong line-up of four crews ready to continue the team’s run of success on the popular gravel event.

For the first time this season, the team will be able to count on both of its world champion drivers, Kalle Rovanperä and Sébastien Ogier, winners of the last two rounds in Kenya and Croatia respectively. Rovanperä is aiming to win in Portugal for the third year in succession, while Ogier is a five-time winner of the event – sharing the record for the most victories with Markku Alén.

Elfyn Evans is also a previous winner in Portugal: his victory in 2021 is one of four consecutive wins by TGR-WRT there since 2019. Evans is currently just six points from the lead of the drivers’ championship after a consistent start to his campaign, with three podium finishes from four events. While the team have nominated the three previous Portugal winners to contribute towards the manufacturers’ championship, which it currently leads by seven points, Takamoto Katsuta will also be aiming high on an event he has performed strongly on in the past.

Portugal will be the first of seven consecutive rallies on gravel. The event is based in the north of the country around Porto, with the service park located in nearby Matosinhos. The stages are fast but technical, with a surface that is usually soft and sandy at first but often becomes rocky and rutted for the second pass.

The route is similar to previous years, with the rally start to the south around the historic city of Coimbra. This year, the competitive action begins on Thursday night with the Figueira da Foz super special . Friday has added stage kilometres with the Mortágua test to  be run at both the start and end of the day. It’s one of four stages to be driven twice around Arganil, which hosts a mid-day tyre fitting zone.

Saturday is the longest day of the rally, featuring 90 competitive miles. A repeated loop of four stages in the Cabreira mountains to the north-east of Porto includes the returning Montim and Amarante, the longest stage of the season so far at 23 miles. Another super special stage at the Lousada rallycross circuit runs in the evening. Sunday features two passes of Cabeceiras de Basto and the famous Fafe, which serves as the rally-ending Power Stage.

The GR Yaris Rally2 will also be well-represented in WRC2 with eight examples entered – the largest number on any rally so far in its debut season. Sami Pajari (Printsport), Georg Linnamäe (RedGrey), Roope Korhonen (Rautio Motorsport) and Jan Solans (Teo Martín Motorsport) are joined on the entry list by the TGR WRC Challenge Program duo of Yuki Yamamoto and Hikaru Kogure plus two drivers making their debuts in the car: Australia’s Lewis Bates (Neal Bates Motorsport) and Frenchman Jean-Michel Raoux (ERACE WRT).

 Team quotes
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal): “It will be great to have all four of our drivers with us in Portugal. This year we wanted to bring them together on at least one rally and this was a good opportunity. With the new points system, it’s been difficult to make big differences in the manufacturers’ championship so far. In Portugal we will have three drivers that have won the event before, plus Taka who has also been very fast, so it’s a strong line-up. Kalle has been very successful there the last two years, while Seb has won it five times before. Elfyn’s road position could be more challenging, but he just needs to keep concentrating on maximising his points against his championship rivals. Taka has also been driving very well and has the capability to fight for the podium. But we know the competition will be strong and I’m sure it will be another big fight for the top positions in Portugal.”

Kalle Rovanperä (driver car 69): “This is a rally that I really like: there’s a lot of fans and a great atmosphere, and the stages have great characteristics. They seem to suit me quite well: we’ve had some good success there in the last two years. Of course, our aim will be to try and win again this year, but it’s never easy. All he top drivers know the stages quite well, so the pace is usually pretty high and it can be quite a close fight. Our road position might help us, but we will have to see what the weather does, because rain can really change things.”

Elfyn Evans (driver car 33): “We’re into a busy part of the season now with rallies coming thick and fast, and our focus moves back to gravel . Portugal can be quite a nice rally with some fast and flowing sections, but recently it’s  become more of a challenge in terms of how rough the roads can get, especially in some of the classic stages further south that we drive on Friday. As always on gravel, road position could be a factor but it’s also a rally that can be affected by the weather. We just have to focus on doing the best job we can with the conditions we have and try to take the maximum from the weekend.”

Sébastien Ogier (driver car 17): “I’m excited to be returning to Portugal after a year away. It’s a country that I have a lot of good memories of, maybe a bit more from when the rally was in the south rather than the north. Still, the atmosphere is always great there and I look forward to that. It’s a rally where normally we should not be at a disadvantage with our road position, and maybe it can even benefit us a bit – but it’s too early to say for certain because there can also be heavy rain there sometimes. It will be my first time competing on gravel for a while, but we had a good test last week and I’m looking forward to the rally.”

Takamoto Katsuta (driver car 18): “I’m looking forward to these next rallies on gravel and I’m confident that they can be good events for me. Portugal especially is a rally that I like and I know the stages pretty well, and our car should work well there. There are some famous stages like Fafe with many jumps, and some stages that are very rough with a lot of rocks, especially on Friday. But if it’s going well, I will try to push as much as I can. As I’m not registered to score points for the team on this event, I have no pressure on that side and I can just focus on driving fast and trying to do my best.”


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Four-strong Toyota Gazoo Racing squad to push for more Portugal success


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