Spain is the location for a triple championship challenge for Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGR) this week. TGR teams are in the running to clinch the manufacturers’ crown in the World Rally Championship (WRC) on Rally de España and for Dakar victors Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel to claim the drivers’ title in the climax of the World Rally-Raid Championship (W2RC). The W2RC manufacturers’ honours are also within TGR’s grasp.
The penultimate round of the WRC (18-23 October) gives Toyota Gazoo Racing the chance to follow up its success last time out at Rally New Zealand. There, Kalle Rovanperä became the competition’s youngest champion driver, while his partner Jonne Halttunen sealed the co-driver’s title.
The team head to Spain with an 81-point lead in the manufacturers’ standings, with a maximum 52 available from each of the two remaining rounds. That means a score of 23 points (equivalent to one car finishing in the top three and another in the top six) will be enough to take the title before the season-ending Rally Japan.
Rovanperä will be joined in Spain by his regular teammate Elfyn Evans, who finished second on the asphalt event last year, and Sébastien Ogier, previously a three-time winner of the rally. Takamoto Katsuta will be making his fifth Spanish start – his third at the WRC’s top level – in his TGR WRT Next Generation entry.
Rally de España is based in Salou on the Costa Dorada, about an hour’s drive south of Barcelona. After 10 editions as a mixed-surface event, it returned last year to being run solely on smooth, flowing asphalt rounds around Catalunya.
Much of the itinerary is similar to last year, but the rally will begin with two new stages north of Salou. Two more familiar stages conclude a loop of four tests to be repeated in the afternoon after service. Saturday is almost identical to previous years, with a trio of tests to the north-east to be run twice, followed by a stage on the Salou seafront to round out the day. The Pratdip and Riudecanyes stages are run twice on the final day and the second pass of the latter test – known for its crowd-pleasing roundabouts – will host the rally-ending Power Stage.
Team Principal Jari-Matti Latvala said: “There is now one target remaining for us which is to win the manufacturers’ championship. We are not far away from it and the most important thing in Spain will be to bring two cars to the finish and score the points we need. This is the main objective but of course we also hope to have the speed to fight for the rally victory. The GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid has been competitive on all the asphalt rallies so far this season and we are confident that can be the case in Spain as well.”
Meanwhile, in the deep south of the country, Rally Andalucia (19-23 October) will bring the 2022 FIA W2RC series to a conclusion. Having driven the new Toyota GR DKR Hilux T1+ to victory on its debut on this year’s Dakar Rally, Nasser Al-~Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel picked up further valuable points in Morocco last week to lead the drivers’ championship going into the series’ final round.
Their campaign has been helped by participation in non-championship events where they have been able to develop the racing Hilux’s performance. These included the Qatar International Baja, where Al-Attiyah and Baumel delivered a flawless drive to win the race. The team were due to prepare for this week’s contest with a test programme in eastern Spain.
The Andalucia Rally, based in the city of Dos Hermanos, comprises a short opening prologue on Wednesday to determine the starting order, followed by a competitive stage on each of the next four days. The total racing distance is 630 miles.