After a hugely successful home event in Finland, the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team head to Germany this week for the next round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship. It will be only the second all-asphalt event for the Yaris WRC, so the team’s objective is to further develop the car’s performance on sealed surfaces.
Rally Germany is renowned for the variety of its stages. They include twisting roads through vineyards, the notoriously tough Baumholder military zone and fast country lanes. The differing characteristics of the route and the often changeable weather can make car set-up and tyre choice difficult.
Tommi Mäkinen, Team Principal, said: “From my experience of Germany as a driver, I remember just how tricky the stages are. Generally, the higher up your start order is, the easier it is. We’re all in a confident mood after Finland and the drivers are feeling very positive with the car, so we’re looking forward to starting the rally and seeing what we can do. I think the Yaris WRC should be quite well-suited to these stages.”
Esapekka Lappi, who claimed his first WRC victory in Finland, is anticipating a tough challenge: “I’m going from my strongest event of the year to one that is definitely outside my comfort zone. It’s my first asphalt rally in a World Rally Car, but actually I find that the Yaris WRC is even easier to drive on asphalt than it is on gravel, because it really feels like a racing car. If we can stay out of trouble in Germany then I think we have a chance to finish in the top five and score some points. That’s my goal.”
The rally has a new base this year at the Bostalsee reservoir complex in the Saarland in the west of Germany. The action starts on Thursday with a super special stage in Saarbrücken. On Friday the route includes three passes through another new, spectator-friendly stage at Wadern-Weiskirchen, while on Saturday the competition moves to Baumholder where the schedule of nine stages includes two runs through the 26-mile Panzerplatte. The event concludes on Sunday with the new Losheim am See and St Wendeler Land stages, each run twice, including a final Power Stage.
Although better known for his exploits on gravel, Jari-Matti Latvala has a decent record in Germany, twice finishing second, in 2012 and 2015. Juho Hänninen on the other hand has only contested the rally once before, back in 2011. Lappi last year claimed the WRC2 win on the event and finished seventh overall.
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round nine:
1 Thierry Neuville 160
2 Sebastien Ogier 160
3 Ott Tanak 119
4 Jari-Matti Latvala 114
5 Dani Sordo 84
6 Elfyn Evans 79
7 Craig Breen 53
8 Hayden Paddon 51
9 Juho Hänninen 46
10 Esapekka Lappi 45
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round nine:
1 M-Sport World Rally Team 285
2 Hyundai Motorsport 251
3 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT 193
4 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 135