Toyota Gazoo Racing targets fightback in Belgian classic

15 August 2022

The Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team returns to asphalt roads at the Ypres Rally Belgium (19 – 21 August), aiming to master the event’s notoriously challenging stages.

After finishing second on home soil at Rally Finland last week, Kalle Rovanperä has a lead of 94 points in the drivers’ championship and an outside chance of claiming a historic first title with four rounds to spare should he win in Belgium. Last year, on the WRC’s first visit to Belgium, Rovanperä finished third as the rally’s best debutant, just ahead of team-mate Elfyn Evans. Esapekka Lappi, who previously competed in Ypres in 2014, once more completes the TGR WRT line-up after his battling podium finish in Finland, with Takamoto Katsuta representing TGR WRT Next Generation.

Although the Ypres Rally is a recent addition to the WRC schedule, the event is considered a classic of the European rally calendar. Its reputation is built on its fast and narrow farmland roads around the West Flanders region, which are often lined by large drainage ditches and include many junctions where dirt is frequently dragged onto the road.

Unlike last year there will be no trip east to Spa-Francorchamps, with all three days of the rally to take place within an 18-mile radius from the city of Ypres, which hosts the service park in its historic centre. An anti-clockwise loop of four stages is run twice on Friday, before a similar route with more competitive distance on Saturday. Two stages are repeated either side of final service to form Sunday’s itinerary, with the well-known Kemmelberg to host the rally-ending Power Stage.

The stages in Belgium will also be the venue for the public debut of the GR Yaris H2: an experimental concept that uses hydrogen to fuel a combustion engine based on the same turbocharged block found in the regular production car. The innovative powertrain has been developed in the GR Corolla H2, the car raced by Team Principal Jari-Matti Latvala together with Team Founder Akio Toyoda during the Fuji 24 Hours earlier this year.

The GR Yaris H2 will be driven on one stage each day of the Ypres Rally, preceding the competitive field as a test car with Toyota rally legend and four-time world champion Juha Kankkunen behind the wheel. Alongside this, as part of Toyota Gazoo Racing’s commitment towards exploring new options for achieving carbon neutrality, the team’s service area will use zero-carbon energy supplied from a Toyota Mirai, the brand’s commercially-available hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.


Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)

“Ypres is a challenging and fast asphalt rally, with a lot of heavy braking, many cuts and lots of dirt coming onto the road. If there’s rain it can be very slippery, and the drivers need to be able to read the road all of the time to judge how the grip is changing. We are much better prepared this year with the experience we gained last year. We understand the nature of the rally and we have tested on more suitable roads. So I think we will be more competitive and can challenge for the victory. It will also be interesting to see the GR Yaris H2 in action: It was exciting for me to compete in the Fuji 24 Hours together with Akio and now we have the chance to demonstrate the same technology on the rally stages. I would love to have driven the car myself but with my focus on the rally, I’m looking forward to hear what Juha Kankkunen makes of driving a hydrogen-fuelled car.”

Elfyn Evans (driver car 33)

“Ypres is a unique event, and completely different to our recent rallies. Even compared to the last asphalt round in Croatia, the demands are quite different. There’s a lot of long straights and junctions, which sounds straightforward on paper but in reality it’s far from it. There’s a lot of surface changes, the roads are often very narrow and bumpy in places, and the braking from very high speed into the junctions is critical. Those who had previous experience showed the value of that last year, and this year we went into our pre-event test knowing a bit more what to expect and what we need from the car. So I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do.”

Kalle Rovanperä (driver car 69)

“I’m feeling good about going to Belgium. Last year we had quite a good rally there overall, I enjoyed the challenge of a new event and hopefully we can do a good result again this time. The style of the roads are tricky, with really big cuts and a lot of mud and gravel on the road. It could depend on the weather conditions: If it’s dry then we saw last year that it can be a bit dusty for the first cars, but if it’s wet then it should be perfect for us to be the first on the road. We had a good test a couple of weeks ago and between us I think we improved the car quite a lot.”

Esapekka Lappi (driver car 4)

“Ypres will certainly be a tough challenge. I’ve been there once, eight years ago in the European championship, and the speed was OK until we crashed out. But I’m actually really looking forward to going back there. I enjoy this car on asphalt a lot. In Croatia we didn’t get the result we wanted but I was really satisfied with how good the car was to drive, and that’s why I’m feeling pretty confident going to Belgium. I don’t have the experience that the others have from last year, but I still think we can be competitive and fight for a good position.”


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Toyota Gazoo Racing targets fightback in Belgian classic


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