How will Toyota respond to Hyundai’s Estonia shock?

Hyundai's big win on the WRC's return rattled Toyota, and now they're heading to a rally where Toyota normally struggles...

Elfyn Evans Toyota WRC Rally Estonia 2020

There’s nothing worse than an upset apple cart. Does that translate? Maybe not. OK, there’s nothing worse than spoiling the status quo. Or upsetting the established order.

Toyota has been the fast World Rally Championship contender on pure pace since 2017. Nobody can have any arguments there. The Yaris WRC is the raciest Rally1 machine around when it comes to firing it between the trees quickly.

Until now.

Hyundai’s one-two at Rally Estonia didn’t just surprise a few folk at Toyota, it rocked the team. Yes, Toyota knew the i20 Coupe WRC had taken a step. Maybe even two. But to dominate in Tartu in that fashion was a genuine surprise.

Yes, Toyota can argue that Kalle Rovanperä could have won and indeed he could, but it wasn’t the Hyundais or the Fords that were delaminating their tyres at an alarming rate because of, potentially, a camber set-up tailored on the wrong roads during their test.

The best way for Toyota to put the apple cart the right way up again is to land an even bigger upset and win – on pace – in Turkey next time out.

When Ott Tänak landed his Yaris into first place in Marmaris two years ago, the Estonian was as surprised as anybody. The result flattered the car enormously.

Last year, Toyota started nowhere and finished nowhere in Turkey. This time it needs to be better.

Elfyn Evans is quietly – very quietly, as usual – confident.

He told DirtFish: “We, as a team, don’t have the best record in Turkey, but they have worked really hard and all three drivers were really happy coming away from the pre-event test [concluded in Greece ahead of Rally Estonia].

“Of course we don’t have any reference so we don’t know where will be when it comes to fighting in the overall picture.

“But the one thing I can say is, let’s say in terms of the feeling in the car, it was positive.

“I know Hyundai surprised a few people [at Rally Estonia], but we saw from the event two weeks earlier [Rally South Estonia] and Ott’s pace there, this was not the Hyundai we saw in Finland one or two years ago.

“Obviously they made something work and hopefully it’s our time to return the favor in Turkey.

“We’ve worked on all areas of the car. It’s quite clear rough rallies and high ride height were things we had to try to work on and we’ve been working on every aspect to improve it in those conditions.”

In terms of his championship approach, Evans starts Turkey nine points down on standings-leading team-mate Sébastien Ogier – one more than when he started the last event.

“We’re in a very similar position,” Evans said.

“When we went to Estonia, that wasn’t the aim – we wanted to narrow the gap. I’ve said it again and again, we want to go to these rallies to perform and, in Estonia, that wasn’t the case for us.

“Like I said to you before, I don’t think we can start to play any sort of tactics or any games in the championship.

“It’s just a case of continuing rally-by-rally and Turkey will be a case of doing the best we can.

“It’s the same old story: we know some people will have a better road position than we have, but Turkey’s very unpredictable and anything can happen.”

Words:David Evans