Toyota team principal Tommi Mäkinen has told DirtFish it will be “impossible to make any strategy” on the first full day of Monza Rally due to the ‘Mickey Mouse’-style stages on which “everyone makes mistakes.”
As a four-time World Rally Champion, Mäkinen knows what it takes to succeed in all kinds of conditions and says Friday’s five stages around the confines of Monza are “going to be difficult for everybody,” particularly in the wintry conditions that are expected to continue from Thursday into Friday.
Mäkinen added that Saturday’s stages up in the hills near Bergamo should be easier to tackle because of their most flowing nature, but the circuit stages – punctuated by several man-made obstacles – are difficult to find a rhythm on.
He told DirtFish: “It’s going to be [a] rally where [it’s] very open and many ask did you make any strategy? It’s impossible to make any strategy in this kind of condition, especially tomorrow.
“I would say Saturday is a little bit easier because normal nature of the roads, even slippy conditions but tomorrow here, these Mickey Mouse stages, it’s absolutely difficult because you have to change your rhythm all the time: fast, twisty, braking, you feel sometimes you brake too early, sometimes you brake too late; everybody makes mistakes.
“How to make any strategy and how much you take the risk because risk will be there anyway all the time following you.”
World Rally Championship points leader Elfyn Evans – who is fourth overall after Thursday’s solitary stages, agreed with his boss, telling DirtFish “we can’t afford” to devise any kind of strategy. Instead, he simply has to do the best job he can to secure both the drivers’ title for himself and the manufacturers’ prize for Toyota.
Evans heads overnight leader Sébastien Ogier by 14 points in the championship while Toyota trails Hyundai by seven.
“It’s difficult to arrive at the limit without taking risks, that’s the problem,” Evans told DirtFish.
“When the conditions are consistent, at least you can normally apply a good technique and still be fast. Now you have to apply an element of risk to every stage otherwise you’ll be right at the back, so it’s about balancing that now.
“It’s just a case of doing the best we can and OK, we have to be reactive or course, but there’s no strategy.”
Asked by DirtFish about the prospect of a title double for Toyota this season, Mäkinen added that he has to “hope that [we] make no mistakes whatsoever” but has full confidence in his entire team to get the job done.
“I know that our whole team has done everything that they can. Maximum preparation, all of them including the drivers,” he said.
“I would say I have good feeling with Séb, he knows very well how to handle the condition and situation [but there’s a] little bit some question mark about Elfyn because it’s first time for him and of course we try to support him and keep him mentally wise and his self-confidence wise as high level as possible because everybody know he can win the rally if he just handles the pressure well.”