Toyota Gazoo Racing return to South America this week to compete in Rally Chile, the 11th event in the 13-round 2023 FIA World Rally Championship, taking place from 28 September to 1 October.
This will be Chile’s second WRC event, following the championship’s debut visit four years ago when Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team (TGR-WRT) claimed victory.
After a maximum score last time out in Greece, the team lead the manufacturers’ standings by 91 points and will take the crown in Chile if they can outscore Hyundai by 13 points or more.
In the drivers’ championship, team-mates Kalle Rovanperä and Elfyn Evans are separated by 33 points, with the same gap back to third-placed Thierry Neuville of Hyundai – the only other driver still in mathematical contention for the title. Chile thus gives Rovanperä his first chance to be crowned champion for a second time.
Takamoto Katsuta completes the team’s line-up in Chile, where he claimed WRC 2 class honours in 2019, just as Rovanperä took the WRC 2 Pro class victory. Evans finished fourth overall, then driving for M-Sport Ford.
As in 2019, the event will be based in the city of Concepción, located about 320 miles south of the Chilean capital, Santiago. A ceremonial start will be held on Thursday evening in Los Ángeles, capital of the Biobío province, before three days of action in the forests of the wider region, featuring medium-fast stages on smooth and compact gravel roads. There are 16 stages and 200 competitive miles in total.
Much of the route is new, as reflected by Friday’s repeated loop of three stages to the south-east of Concepción, where only the first half of the opening stage has been driven previously – in the opposite direction. Saturday’s route, on the other hand, is almost identical to 2019 with another trio of tests run twice to the south of the city, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Sunday’s action takes place in unfamiliar territory just to the east of Concepción, with a pair of stages to both be driven twice.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal): “After the great result for the team in Greece, it’s looking good for us in all the championships but with three events to go, there is still some important work to do to secure the titles and continue maximising our results. It’s going to be interesting to go back to Chile. I drove the rally with the team back in 2019 and it’s a much smoother and faster gravel event compared to Greece. The roads are a bit of a combination of the characteristics you can find in Finland, Wales and even New Zealand. There are some really technical sections as well, so there are roads that are fast and flowing and others which are twisting and turning all the time. It should be a good event and one where we hope to do well with all three of our crews.”
Kalle Rovanperä (driver car 69): “Greece was a good result for us and the championship is looking better for us again, but we need to focus hard for the next event because Rally Chile is going to be another big challenge. The last time we were there, I was driving a Rally2 car and we had a good weekend. But I think that after four years and with a lot of new stages, it is going to feel more like a new rally anyway and it’s going to be a challenging event for everyone. The roads are nice but the conditions can be very tricky and the grip can change a lot. Still, I’m looking forward to it and hope it can be a good rally for us.”
Elfyn Evans (driver car 33): “Rally Chile was a nice event when we went there for the first time back in 2019 but also a very challenging one. The roads remind me a bit of Wales in points, but the rally will be happening at a different time of year on this occasion and only a few of the stages will be the same. It will almost be like a new rally with a lot of new pace notes to write, so it could be a difficult week. There isn’t so much knowledge from the past we can use, but I am looking forward to it nonetheless. We’re going to give it everything, as we will keep doing until the end of the year.”
Takamoto Katsuta (driver car 18): “It’s going to be a big challenge for all of us to go back to Chile after four years. I have some nice memories from there in 2019 when we had a good weekend in WRC 2. Of course, I haven’t been there in a top-category car before, so that will be an extra challenge for me. The roads are quite fast but also very tricky, and there will be a lot of new stages this time. It’s going to be a very important rally for the team and for me also. It won’t be easy but I will try to do my best and hopefully we can have a good weekend.”