Should Toyota use team orders to help Evans?

Jari-Matti Latvala remains against team orders – but is that a wise call? We asked some experts

GFOS 2023 Elfyn Evans 00050

Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul made his intentions crystal clear at last year’s Rally Sweden. His team had a primary target: win the drivers’ title with Thierry Neuville. On round two of the season, team orders were deployed: Craig Breen would take a 10-second late check-in penalty and hand his team-mate second place.

It didn’t work – Neuville made an error on the power stage and dropped back to third. But the tone had been set early and clearly: Hyundai would shuffle the deck on a whim if it meant ensuring its main candidate for the drivers’ title would benefit.

That’s never been the case at Toyota. And it still isn’t: before the season began, its team principal Jari-Matti Latvala reiterated that he had no desire to instruct his drivers to help Elfyn Evans, Toyota’s only realistic candidate for the drivers’ crown in 2024.

Latvala confirmed to DirtFish: “We have only Elfyn who can really go for the title, but we believe in a fair game and we want to have a fair fight between the drivers, so we don’t do any tactical changes.”


“The manufacturers’ championship, if you think about our driver line-up, we would have chances for that. It’s where I think we can really challenge. But going for the drivers’ title, the thing is that Elfyn has to be alone.”

The opposite argument is that no, he doesn’t have to be alone. In Sébastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä, Evans theoretically has two world champions available as wingmen. Except they’re not here to be the support act: they’re turning up to win rallies – potentially at Evans’ expense.

That certainly looks to be the case at Rally Sweden: Evans has already conceded that Rovanperä is likely to be faster than him later this week.

So is letting the cards fall as they may the right choice? We asked a trio of world championship-winning team principals and sporting directors what they’d do in this situation.

Jost Capito

Former motorsport director at Volkswagen

Rally Poland 2015

Jost Capito led Volkswagen during the most dominant period in rally history. Having Sébastien Ogier in its line-up no doubt helped.

Every driver should be allowed to run their own rally. Talking about this after one event, I don’t think it’s right. I’m sure Jari-Matti [Latvala] thinks the same as what he learned at Volkswagen, that finally the manufacturer is putting a lot of investment in and the main thing for the manufacturer is the manufacturers’ title.

It doesn’t matter which driver is getting the points. For a manufacturer, getting the points is the main thing.

Then, at the end, if you have somebody who seems he is the guy who can win the drivers’ championship and the second or third driver doesn’t have the chance anymore, then it should be within the team that the guy who can win the championship is supported.

In rallying it’s not really like a normal race: on many events you can’t really help because there’s somebody between the cars. If possible, you should try to do everything without team orders – but if there is one clear driver who can win the championship and he needs the support, he should get the support.

I think it’s right not doing team orders. Sharing a car is very special in a race series as well – we didn’t have that at Volkswagen, we had our three drivers and that was it. I don’t think it’s right by the regulation that you can do this.

Andrea Adamo

Former team principal at Hyundai

Andrea Adamo

Andrea Adamo was never afraid of making bold calls when he steered Hyundai's ship in the WRC.

Every option has a positive and negative. I can understand Jari-Matti. Being a driver, maybe he was not happy with respecting team orders, he thought that they were not fair.

But in my opinion, considering it is the manufacturers paying the bills, it is their right to decide what the best option is to bring home a title. We have cases that thanks to team orders, titles have been won and lost. If you have to respect the manufacturers, who is paying the bills, the payroll, everyone has to do what is possible to win. It’s not a matter of winning fairly or not fairly. It is a matter of reaching the target. And the target is to win.

We also have to ask ourselves if Toyota is interested in winning the drivers’ title; maybe they are not interested and only want to be focused on the manufacturers’ title. For me, it’s the only one that really matters in rallying – but that’s another conversation. Therefore they focus on that and see what will happen at the end of the year: if they get it, OK. If not, peace.

George Donaldson

Former team manager at Toyota, Mitsubishi and Subaru

Rally Australia 2003

Subaru deployed team hierarcy during George Donaldon's spell there. Corrado Provera (left), Peugeot team principal, didn't need to – Marcus Grönholm was its clear drivers' title candidate.

I think the whole thing is slightly naive. This is a very expensive form of motorsport, with the prize of fabulous publicity. The idea that there is some sporting equity in letting the drivers fight it out is ridiculous.

In Monte Carlo, there was no way to slow Sébastien Ogier down, as he still had a chance to win the rally until Thierry Neuville crossed the line, and at this point in the year I wouldn’t think to apply team orders anyway. But I still don’t think team orders should be categorically ruled out.

Many world champions have benefited from team orders including Richard Burns, Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz, and it didn’t take anything away from their achievements.

Toyota’s approach in not applying orders probably started when Tommi Mäkinen was in charge as he wouldn’t want to use them as a former driver. And now Jari-Matti Latvala is carrying it on.

The drivers can manage it themselves, as long as someone in the team can be the catalyst. George Donaldson

There are subtle ways of doing it, I’d call it more of a ‘team consensus’ where the drivers understand that the team pays their salary, and if they work for the team, then the team will work for them. That’s what happened with Petter Solberg in 2001 when I was the team manager at Subaru. Petter supported Richard Burns to the title, and then Tommi helped Petter win it in 2003.

So in that way, the drivers can manage it themselves, as long as someone in the team can be the catalyst. You talk about it before the rally starts, so that you avoid tensions arising on the event, like in Safari last year where Ogier won ahead of Rovanperä and Evans. The sensible thing to do there would have been for Séb to let Kalle win as he was going for the championship.

You’ve got to remember there are two prizes on offer: the drivers’ title and the manufacturers’ title. I think they are of equal value, and everyone has to understand that nothing is more important than those goals.

So ultimately yes to team orders, but it should be done by intelligent consensus.