Latvala excited for all-Toyota drivers’ title fight

With the manufacturers' crown secure, Evans and Rovanperä are free to battle it out over the remaining two WRC rounds


Jari-Matti Latvala has been here before – in both of his World Rally Championship roles.

Roll the clock back nine years, when the Finn was donning a set of Volkswagen overalls, and he was chasing Sébastien Ogier all the way for the 2014 title.

A victory on Ogier’s home ground as the Frenchman was slowed with gear-selection problems helped Latvala’s cause, but in the end victory for Ogier on Rally Spain earned him the title with a round to spare.

Sebastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala, Mikko Hirvonen  - Winners

Seven years on, and Ogier – now a Toyota driver via post-VW stints at M-Sport and Citroën – was once again fighting a team-mate for the world championship. His opponent? Elfyn Evans.

Latvala, in his first year as team principal, oversaw a final round showdown at Monza which favored Ogier; the reigning champion holding Evans to a 17-point deficit.

And after a slump in form, Ogier returned to the top when it mattered most to claim his eighth world title on his final event alongside Julien Ingrassia. Evans finished second on the rally and in the championship.

Now it’s time for round three.

Next weekend, the latest instalment in Kalle Rovanperä’s battle with team-mate Evans will play out. After the result in Chile, only one of the two Toyota men can emerge as 2023 world champion.

Pressure? Nerves?

Nope, excitement. That’s what Latvala says the team will be feeling as its two drivers wade into battle.


“First of all I am really proud of the team, and the drivers, all the work that we have done during the season,” Latvala began.

“It’s an incredible job because we are getting the [manufacturers’] title two rounds before the end of the season. It is the earliest we have ever got the title as Toyota Gazoo Racing, so it shows that we have done things right and also the drivers [have] been doing a great job.

“Our two drivers are still fighting for the drivers’ title, so there is of course excitement to see now who is it gonna be?

“But I would say when we got the manufacturers’ title, some weight is out of our shoulders.”

That means that heading into next week’s Central European Rally, and then potentially Rally Japan, Rovanperä and Evans will be completely free to sort the battle out between themselves.


As a result, Latvala’s job is quite straightforward – unlike in 2021 when Rovanperä was asked to drive around safely and guard the manufacturers’ title Toyota had all-but clinched, while his two team-mates disputed the drivers’ crown.

With nothing else at stake, all the team has to do this year is make sure both drivers have an equal, and fair, chance at glory.

“The most important thing when you have drivers in the same team fighting is they both need to have the same chances,” Latvala said. “So we need to be supporting them in the same way.

“But of course, in one way it’s also nerve breaking because if one makes a mistake, he will suffer immediately, and then, you know, it’s one of your drivers. But that’s the way it is.


“Now, with the last two events remaining, we go to the second last event, the situation is this that Kalle can take it a little more relaxed, but Elfyn needs to go and try to win the event to keep the championship fight alive.

“[But] even though Kalle can take it a bit more relaxed, at the same time it might be that it’s a little more difficult for him to concentrate. So it’s not easy for him either. So there is a lot at stake for both of them.

“But I just hope that they both will cope with it, and we’ll try and give them the environment where they can concentrate, and do the best job as well as they can.”

Rovanperä leads Evans by 31 points heading into the penultimate round. The same (or a larger) margin at the end of Central European Rally would crown him a double World Rally champion one round early.