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WRC Rally Estonia

WRC engine update to put Toyota on par with Hyundai

Toyota is hopeful an engine update will bring the manufacturer level in the power stakes with World Rally Championship rival Hyundai, according to team boss Jari-Matti Latvala.

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Toyota will debut its new engine update at this weekend’s Rally Estonia after the reigning world champions elected to use one of its homologation jokers to make the change.

It has been widely considered that Hyundai has held a top end speed advantage over Toyota since the introduction of the Rally1 regulations last year.

The deficit between the teams was at its most prominent in high speed rallies, in Estonia and Finland, which has prompted Toyota’s engineering department to focus on improving the GR Yaris’ power unit.

“First of all, it was quite clear last year that the faster rallies were little bit difficult for our drivers to keep with the likes of Ott in the Hyundai,” Toyota technical director Tom Fowler told Autosport.

“There was a big battle between Kalle and Ott in Estonia and again in Finland with the two scoring one win each but the wrong way round in terms of their nationalities. We felt like we should have done better from the car side to help Kalle.

“It [the update] is pure performance and of course we always check the reliability of anything we are going to do and make sure it is the same level as the outgoing equipment. The intention of this work has been to find performance in high speed rallies.”

Latvala is hopeful the latest update will close the gap to Hyundai in the outright speed department.

“I think if you look in general the Hyundai has been very strong with its engine,” Latvala told Autosport.

“I don’t think we are more powerful than the others but hopefully we are on the same level as Hyundai now. They have been very strong and I can’t say exactly the differences, but we should be the same now.”

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Toyota drivers Kalle Rovanpera and Elfyn Evans are grateful for the update even if it only provides a small improvement.

"There are subtle differences,” said Evans. “It is always difficult to do enough of a difference, when you have this level of power, to make a change that you can feel the massive difference. But of course it is always welcomed to get the fruits of the labour of the engineers and it is a welcomed upgrade. Every little helps.”

Rovanpera added: “The engine feels good of course but it is never really easy to feel the small differences. But definitely the guys have found some performance.”

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Hyundai boss Cyril Abiteboul isn’t overly concerned by Toyota’s latest engine development as it looks to close the gap to the Japanese brand in the constructors’ title race.

“Yes, any improvement is a concern but I think from an engine perspective we are well positioned,” said Abiteboul.

“We usually have a top speed advantage with the gear ratios we use, our fifth gear is a bit longer. I think we still have a good engine and there is also some exploratory work on our side to respond to anything new we will see.

“I don’t think it will make too much a of big difference here.”

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