Toyota 'not completely ready' for WRC return, says Mikko Hirvonen

World Rally Championship event winner Mikko Hirvonen is not convinced Toyota is ready for its return in Monte Carlo this weekend

Toyota 'not completely ready' for WRC return, says Mikko Hirvonen

Developed as part of a new programme led by four-time champion Tommi Makinen, Toyota's Yaris WRC will make its debut in the 2017 season opener, driven by Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hanninen.

Hirvonen tested Toyota's Yaris last year, and does not believe the Japanese manufacturer will be in a position to challenge for podiums until later in the season.

"I think maybe they [Toyota] are not completely ready yet," he told Autosport's sister title Motorsport.com.

"They had such a tight schedule to develop the car, and what I'm hearing is that there's still some work to do.

"But Jari-Matti has a lot of experience already, and if he can really focus and get the team behind him as well, yeah, they might.

"But I don't think it's going to happen in the first half of the season, maybe later on they'll be able to fight for the podiums."

Hirvonen is hopeful countryman Latvala can recover from his difficult 2016 campaign with Volkswagen, in which he won just once and could only finish sixth in the standings.

"It hasn't been easy for him," he said.

"He's had some mistakes and, I think, especially last year, he had a lot of mechanical issues with the car as well, which was a bit surprising from a team like Volkswagen.

"Hopefully he can kind of zero in on his situation and just go through and develop the car, take all the rallies one at a time."

OGIER AND M-SPORT CAN FIGHT FOR TITLE

Following Volkswagen's WRC exit at the end of 2016, four-time champion Ogier has joined M-Sport to drive its new Fiesta RS.

Hirvonen claimed 14 of his 15 wins with M-Sport and believes the British outfit and Ogier could challenge for the title.

"It could be [possible]," he said.

"It's been a long time since all the teams had to design a new car at the same time, and Ford has always been able to design a competitive car.

"I don't know for sure, but it is possible. I really hope they can get back to winning ways, because the team and Malcolm [Wilson, team boss] have done so much for my career."

Hirvonen also noted the importance of Ogier joining a new team after dominating with Volkswagen for four seasons.

"It's going to be interesting to see what Ogier can do in another car, which he hasn't been developing from the beginning like he did with the Volkswagen," he added.

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