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WRC Rally Finland

Rally legend Kankkunen sets target for Latvala on WRC comeback

Rally legend Juha Kankkunen has set Jari-Matti Latvala a target ahead of the Toyota team principal's World Rally Championship comeback drive at Rally Finland this weekend.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 testing in Finland ahead of Rally Finland

Toyota WRC boss Latvala is making a rare return to the WRC for his home event to pilot a fourth Toyota GR Yaris entry.

It will be the first time the 18-time WRC rally winner will compete at the top level since a one-off outing at Rally Sweden in 2020 prior to taking up the team principal role at Toyota.

The decision to contest Rally Finland, which was only made after Toyota’s dominant 1-2-3-4 at Safari Rally Kenya last month, is born out of a desire to drive the Rally1 hybrid generation WRC car in competition.

To prepare for the fast gravel rally, which he has won three-times previously, Latvala drove the GR Yaris at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last month, prior to a test day on Finnish roads yesterday, alongside co-driver Juho Haninnen.

Speaking ahead of this week’s rally Latvala says he has realistic expectations before revealing that compatriot and four-time WRC champion Kankkunen has set him a modest goal for the weekend.

“I know I haven’t been driving for four years at the top level car,” Latvala told Autosport.

“I know myself it will be tough in the first couple of stages. The target is to try to improve over the weekend. If I can have better stage times than what I have at the beginning of the rally, then that is a good step forward.

“Juha Kankkunen has given me a plan. He is going to be in Finland working as a Toyota ambassador and he has said that my result should be between fourth and eighth.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 testing in Finland ahead of Rally Finland

Jari-Matti Latvala, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 testing in Finland ahead of Rally Finland

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Targets aside Latvala says one of the reasons he is undertaking this rally is to experience the Rally1 car first hand to better understand his team's drivers at future events.

“Working with the drivers, for example Thierry [Neuville] said at the Power Stage in Estonia that he lost his hybrid power and he didn't know how much time he would lose," he added.

“I want to understand this hybrid power. How much it helps the drivers and how the power comes in the corners and what is the effect when you have it and when you don’t have it.

“Then I can understand our drivers much better in future when I have an understanding of this functionality and the performance of the car.”

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With Latvala competing this weekend, the Finn says he will be in full “rally mode” and has passed his team principal duties to former Toyota president Akio Toyoda.

Asked if it would be hard for him to switch off from being a team principal, Latvala added: ”We have had a bit of a discussion about it. There are already some meetings with people wanting to discuss Rally2 and things like that in Finland and other stuff for the future, but I have said I can’t do both.

“I can’t be negotiating things for the future and be focussing on the rally. I will be in rally driver mode and I’m going in with that mindset as I will get confused trying to focus on both things.”

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