How Toyota won and won again in Lapland

Toyota celebrated Rally1 and Rally2 success at the Arctic. Rovanperä was flying, but Evans has more homework ahead

Kalle Arctic 1

Kalle Rovanperä and Elfyn Evans reacquainted themselves with winter rallying, dominating the Arctic Lapland Rally as part of their preparations for the second round of the World Rally Championship in Sweden later this month.

As expected, Toyota’s pair of GR Yaris Rally1 cars were the class of the field for Finnish Championship-counting two-day event in Rovaniemi which concluded on Sunday night. Defending world champion Rovanperä built a 54-second lead over Evans before his #69 car was silenced by a final-stage technical problem.

Despite that issue, which prevented a second Arctic win in five years for the 23-year-old, Rovanperä was pleased with his two days in the snow.

“It’s been a good feeling for the whole event,” he said. “We have found the final tweaks we needed for the car and now it feels really fast all of the time. Finding that pace and taking the good feeling was the important thing for Sweden. Of course, it’s a shame not to finish on top, but that wasn’t what this test event was about.

Evans Arctic 1

Evans might have won in Lapland, but he was the first to admit he and the team have work ahead of them

“It was good to get some kilometres in the car – Sweden is demanding because it’s the only snow event of the year and we have to make sure we nail the set-up in just a few tests. We don’t have so much experience of these conditions and we need to make sure the car is fast.”

Eventual winner Evans was full of praise for the rally and the conditions, but admitted there is more to come from the car ahead of the Umeå-based second round of WRC.

“It’s really useful to come and do this event,” he said. “Having mileage on the snow and ice is a massive benefit – it’s such a unique surface. I think it’s no secret that we still have some work ahead of us to get the car into the window before we feel fully comfortable. Let’s see what we can find during the rest of this week.”

Toyota returns south to its Jyväskylä base and a day of running for each of the drivers, Rovanperä, Evans and Takamoto Katsuta at its own test site, this week.

Heikkila Arctic

Heikkilä delivered an important debut win aboard his Toyota GR Yaris Rally2

GR Yaris Rally2 driver Mikko Heikkilä offered the Japanese manufacturer another reason to smile after he won an ultra-competitive Rally2 category by 7.3 seconds from Teemu Asunmaa’s Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.

Toyota Challenge Gen2 drivers Hikaru Kogure and Yuki Yamamoto rounded out the overall top 10 on their debut in a brace of GR Yaris Rally2s – separated at the finish by 1.7s.

Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala returned to the driving seat for this event and saw the finish despite a late issue aboard his Celica Turbo 4WD.

“This has been a very important test event for us,” he said. “Kalle not finishing doesn’t disturb us – Kalle was happy with the car and confident in his preparations. Elfyn was able to run first on the road in a similar position to what he’ll be in Sweden later this month and, of course, we had the first victory for the GR Yaris Rally2 and the two Gen2 Challenge Program drivers in the top 10.

“We’ve had a lot going on, including me driving my Celica – but it’s been a really nice rally.”

Latvala Arctic 040224

A moment on the happy stick might have dialled out the understeer - we can show J-ML how at DirtFish!