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WRC Rally Mexico

Toyota confident of rough gravel improvements for Mexico WRC round

Toyota is confident it will be competitive on Mexico’s stages this weekend following struggles on rough gravel rallies in the World Rally Championship last year.  

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

The reigning world champion squad has been working to solve its pace deficit on rough gravel which was highlighted last year in Sardinia and Greece, the only events a Toyota failed to score a podium in 2022.

Toyota team boss Jari-Matti Latvala says its problems stemmed from the GR Yaris’ suspension, but after a successful pre-event in test in Spain earlier this month, the Finn believe progress has been made in this department.

Mexico’s return to the WRC calendar this weekend will provide an opportunity to test the theory as the championship tackles its first gravel event of the season. 

“We know this surface was not favourable for us last year, but I’m confident this year we should be competitive,” said Latvala.

“For sure, we have been focusing a lot on the suspension side of the car, this is where we were losing time. 

“Last year we were missing the traction coming out of the corners. Drivers were complaining about the understeer from the car and these were the areas we were working on in the test. 

“I know the engineers have done a lot of work for this event and in the test. We tried to get the maximum out of it across the three days of testing.  

“I’m really happy [with the team’s preparations]. They have done a very good job with the test with the cars and with the drivers. 

Jari-Matti Latvala, Team principal Toyota Gazoo Racing

Jari-Matti Latvala, Team principal Toyota Gazoo Racing

Photo by: Toyota Racing

“The drivers are happy with the improvements that we have done.

“Of course, it is always a question as to how well we have done the preparation when the rally really starts, but so far what has been done I‘m pleased with.”

While Latvala believes the GR Yaris is stronger on rough gravel, road position will be crucial for success on the dusty gravel, high altitude Mexican stages. 

World champion Kalle Rovanpera faces the disadvantage of starting second on the road behind championship leader M-Sport’s Ott Tanak. Elfyn Evans is fourth on the road ahead of the returning six-time WRC Mexico winner Sebastien Ogier, while Takamoto Kastuta will start seventh. 

Latvala believes it will be difficult for Tanak and Rovanpera to challenge for victory as a result of the effects of road cleaning.      

“Starting as the first car on the road it is almost impossible to win here, I would say the first two cars it is very difficult,” he added.

“If your road position is from four onwards you can fight for the win but normally the first two cars don’t really have chance. If you are third on the road and you have a very good run then you can have a chance. 

“If the stages were in a different order it could be different. But now when you have the El Chocolate stage on Friday, which is very technical with a lot of slow speed places and slow acceleration zones from corners. 

“You lose so much time in these areas but if you had fast stages rather than slow the difference would be smaller.”

Ogier won the last edition of Rally Mexico in 2020, his sixth victory on the event

Ogier won the last edition of Rally Mexico in 2020, his sixth victory on the event

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

While Ogier is arguably the favourite heading into Mexico, given his event record and prime road position to challenge for a record seventh WRC win in the country, the eight-time world champion believes there will be plenty of risks for those running later in the order. 

“Obviously my starting position looks good but after a couple of cars there is a risk that there will be some rocks coming in lines you don’t expect and that is always a risk,” said Ogier.

“That is a usual parameter on gravel.

“It is never nice to open the road on such dry gravel event, but being behind we know that we don’t have such reliable tyres, so for sure the risk of puncture is there and maybe higher than it used to be here.”

Rally Mexico will begin on Thursday evening, local time. 

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