The Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team face another gruelling test this week on the Rally Italia Sardegna, the seventh round of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship. The team are heading for the Mediterranean island of Sardinia looking to continue development of the Toyota Yaris WRC and will once again be fielding three cars, driven by the all-Finnish line-up of by Jari-Matti Latvala, Juho Hänninen and Esapekka Lappi.
Lappi impressed on his top-level WRC debut on Rally Portugal, scoring points for the team. However, the focus for his car remains test and development to help accelerate evolution of the Yaris WRC.
The rally is characterised by fast, narrow stages coated with a fine, sandy gravel that is swept away by each passing car to expose a rockier, rutted road surface. Other hazards include exposed rocks and trees lining the route, while high temperatures can add to the stress on cars and tyres.
Team Principal Tommi Mäkinen said: “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 and 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 rally is based in Alghero on Sardinia’s west coast where the action will start on Thursday evening with a super special stage before the crews move to Olbia on the east coast. On Friday there is a sequence of two runs through four stages, including the classic tests of Terranova and Monte Olia. Saturday’s schedule is the longest of the rally, with almost 90 miles of running through two loops of three stages. The action concludes on Sunday with a further four stages, culminating the Power Stage at Sassari-Argentiera.
Latvala, currently third in the drivers’ championship, is a past winner of the event, in 2009, and has scored four other podium finishes there.
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round six (Portugal):
1 Sebastien Ogier 128
2 Thierry Neuville 106
3 Jari-Matti Latvala 88
4 Ott Tanak 83
5 Dani Sordo 66
6 Elfyn Evans 53
7 Craig Breen 43
8 Hayden Paddon 33
9 Kris Meeke 27
10 Juho Hänninen 21
17 Esapekka Lappi 3
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round six (Portugal):
1 M-Sport World Rally Team 199
2 Hyundai Motorsport 173
3 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT 113
4 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 85