Toyota begins fightback mission after Monte pain

Ogier's puncture and Evans' crash left Toyota with much to rue. So it got straight back out in the Finnish snow this week


This, people, is what hurt looks like. This is Toyota’s World Rally Championship team purging itself of pain.

After missing out on a round one win, the Finnish-built Yaris Rally1 has taken to the woods around Jyväskylä to accelerate its preparations for February’s Rally Sweden.

Elfyn Evans and his team-mates have gone in search of some WRC revenge.

A penultimate-stage puncture cost Sébastien Ogier victory in the French Alps, but technical director Tom Fowler said Evans’ result hurts almost as much.

The Welshman was running third as he went into the first run on Saturday’s Saint-Geniez – Thoard (Sisteron) stage, but an astonishing run through the snow and ice across the Col de Fontbelle put him 11.9 seconds up on M-Sport’s eventual rally winner Sébastien Loeb with nine of the 12 miles done.

Not far after, Evans was caught out by a right hander and spent the next 19 minutes hauling the car back up a bank.

“The situation hurt a lot,” Fowler told DirtFish. “We were so close to the victory.

“I think we’re still in pain from Elfyn – he was driving so well and, yes, you can say without this or with that – and we don’t like to do that – but that one corner caught him out when he was about to set a stage time which looked like it would have taken him into the lead.

“At that point we would have had Elfyn out front with Sébastien Ogier behind in a one-two. It was a very different picture on Sunday afternoon.


“The big picture is really positive, but Sunday hurt us.

“We’ve taken that as a positive; when you have a really good result, it’s easy to go back to the workshop and think you’re a legend for a couple of weeks – then somebody comes and kills you in the next race.

“We went back with some pain inside of us and we’re going to use that to do the absolute maximum we can between now and Sweden to bounce back from a disappointing, but overall positive, story.”

Evans and team-mates Kalle Rovanperä and Esapekka Lappi all ran a day of testing in the Finnish snow this week.

This week was the first hybrid mileage Toyota has put on the Yaris Rally1 on snowy roads. The team’s very first test with the prototype came in the snow last year, but that was before the hybrid system was fitted to the car.

“That first test gave us a good baseline for the engine and the chassis in the snow,” said Fowler, “and [this week] we’ve continued to test and move forwards – we have a good idea of where we’re going.”

Fowler was pleased with the reliability and performance his team had shown so far.

“It’s really encouraging,” he added. “All four cars went through without any technical issues.

“OK, we had some issues with Takamoto’s [Katsuta] car at shakedown – but that was the last car we built and we were in a rush for some of the parts. It took us the shakedown, but we got to the bottom of that unit, we got that car rectified and then they were all really strong.

“Ultimately, Kalle leads the drivers’ championship [among the full-time drivers] and we’re three behind in the manufacturers’ – that’s nothing in the grand scheme of the 400-or-so points the winning manufacturer will gather by the end of the season.”