Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT toughed out the heat and dust of Rally Mexico with both Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hänninen finishing in the points on Sunday (12 March). This third-round result keeps Latvala in second place in the World Rally Championship’s drivers’ table, with his Finnish compatriot in 11th. Toyota also holds second in the chase for manufacturer honours.
Four days of action on gravel surfaces at high altitude presented the team with the biggest challenge yet in their debut WRC season. Latvala and co-driver Miika Anttila in the #10 Yaris WRC had the disadvantage of being the first car through each stage of Friday’s first full day of action, effectively clearing the route and losing time on the other front-runners in the field. In common with many other teams, Toyota Gazoo Racing also had to contend with car overheating problems.
Temperatures were cooler for Saturday’s schedule and at the end of the day, just three tenths of a second separated Latvala from the #11 crew of Hänninen and Kai Lindström in sixth and seventh places. This was in spite of Latvala suffering a puncture on stage 11 and Hänninen (below) coping with the effects of flu.
Sunday featured just two stages and 56km of racing, but offered the chance to net extra drivers’ championship points in a power stage. Latvala rose to the challenge, scoring two points with the fourth fastest time.
Reflecting on the first gravel event for Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT, Team Principal Tommi Mäkinen said: “After the amazing experiences we had in Monte-Carlo and Sweden, this rally was much more the type of situation we were expecting from this year. But it still gave us a lot of satisfaction as we scored points with both drivers for the first time and also had to overcome a lot of difficulties to achieve that. So we are happy with the result and with the information we obtained on what was our first gravel rally. What we have learned will be very useful for the future.”
The next stop for Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT is the Tour de Corse in Corsica, from 6 to 9 April. This is the first traditional asphalt round of the season, famous for its twisting hairpin bends, presenting the team with another new challenge. Weather conditions can be changeable, so the drivers will need to be prepared for anything.
Provisional final result, Rally Mexico:
|1||Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle||Citroen C3 WRC||3h 22m 04.6s|
|2||Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia||Ford Fiesta WRC||+ 13.8s|
|3||Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+ 59.7s|
|4||Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja||Ford Fiesta WRC||+ 2m 18.3s|
|5||Hayden Paddon/John Kennard||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+ 3m 32.9s|
|6||Jari-Matti Latvala/Miika Anttila||Toyota Yaris WRC||+ 4m 40.3s|
|7||Juho Hänninen/Kaj Lindström||Toyota Yaris WRC||+ 5m 06.2s|
|8||Dani Sordo/Marc Marti||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+ 5m 22.7s|
|9||Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt||Ford Fiesta WRC||+ 8m 41.8s|
|10||Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson||Skoda Fabia R5||+10m 51.9s|
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after Rally Mexico:
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after Rally Mexico:
|1||M-Sport World Rally Team||103|
|2||Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT||67|
|4||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team||55|