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WRC Rally Finland

Latvala to make WRC comeback at Rally Finland

Jari-Matti Latvala will make a competitive World Rally Championship return at Rally Finland in August.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Team principal Toyota Gazoo Racing

The 18-time WRC rally winner will forsake his role as Toyota WRC team principal for a weekend to pilot a fourth GR Yaris at the gravel rally, alongside reigning world champion Kalle Rovanpera, Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta.

It will be the Finn’s first rally behind the wheel of a Rally1 car and his first WRC event since Rally Sweden in 2020, when he drove a privately-run Toyota Yaris with Juho Hanninen acting as co-driver. Toyota test driver Hanninen will once again occupy the co-driver seat for this latest WRC Rally1 outing. 

Latvala, who retired from full-time driving in the WRC in 2019 before taking up the Toyota team principal role ahead of the 2021 season, has remained active as a driver, competing in several historic rallies. 

Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda is set to take up the team principal role for Rally Finland (3-6 August) while Latvala is competing.    

“Well the story started I think after the end of the 2022 season, when I was in Japan and talking with Morizo, our Chairman,” said Latvala. 

“I said that I had the dream to experience a Rally1 car, because over the last 20 years I have experienced all the World Rally Cars and all the evolutions of these cars, but I have no experience of Rally1, and I would like to experience it before I am 40 years old. So this year or 2024 or 2025. 

“And Morizo said ʻyes, we need to do it, letʼs do it!ʼ But we didnʼt agree when we would do it. But then for this season we have had this fourth car available for rent, and suddenly in the beginning of the year already, Akio said ʻhmm, we can do it this year, letʼs do it this year!ʼ 

“Then he also said he will come to Rally Finland, and we thought maybe this can be a good idea. Akio said I can drive, and I said to Akio, ʻthen you can be Team Principalʼ. That was how it was agreed.” 

Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT NG Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT NG Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Tomek Kaliński

Latvala is expected to conduct a test day in the GR Yaris Rally1 before lining up for Rally Finland, and is aiming for a top 10 finish in the rally.

“I have to say that it feels a little bit unreal and I start to be slightly nervous, because driving in Finland, I would say itʼs a privilege," he added. 

“When itʼs your home round and itʼs one of the best rallies in the championship, the feelings and the emotions are really high. I know that itʼs going to be difficult I think to get any top result because this is my first time with a Rally1 car. 

“I havenʼt been in a top- level car since 2019, so for four years. But the idea is to enjoy and have a good time over the weekend, and thatʼs the target: that we can smile after every stage.

“Like I said, my target is to have a smile after every stage, and result-wise if we are somewhere between top-five and top-10, then Iʼll be really happy. Then we have had a nice weekend. 

"I will go with one test day, jump into the car and then do the event immediately. It is not so easy to get into the car only with one test day. 

“But anyway, this is more about the experience and about enjoying it. I am not building a new career as a driver.”

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