Toyota explains asphalt philosophy needed for Finland

Both are fast rallies, but the setup for Estonia won't be carried into Rally Finland next week


Asphalt rallies are the place for speed kings, right? On the whole, yes, although Rally Finland might have something to say about that.

Despite its gravel-covered stages, Finland promotes speed, and it doesn’t take any prisoners.

If you turn up to Jyväskylä without a car capable of hurtling through the forest at insane speeds for 178 miles, don’t expect to be winning. Don’t expect to be anywhere near the fastest stage times.

Finland is unique. Gravel stages normally mean the pace will be slower and that you need a slightly softer setup to get the most from the car. Not at the gravel grand prix.

In Finland, what you really need is a car with a very particular set of skills. You can’t arrive with your usual gravel rally car. In fact, you are almost better off with an all-out racing car, and that’s what Toyota is striving for.

“It has been described in the past that a Finland rally car, it’s the Tarmac car of gravel,” Toyota technical director Tom Fowler explained to DirtFish.

“It’s very specific to those roads.

“If you used a Finland car in Sardinia, even with the right ride height, it’d be a disaster.”

So exactly what will Toyota’s Finland car be like?


“Lower, stiffer. It’s more like a grand prix gravel car.”

It’s a unique style, something that Toyota has discovered over the years on the most recent round of the world championship: Rally Estonia.

“If I remember correctly, when we came to Rally Estonia the first time it was a WRC round, we came with quite a Finland car and we were quick when [the stages] were very quick, but then Hyundai blasted us on the small sections,” Fowler said.

“Then we came back with that information and we made a compromise car which was still OK in the fast but it was much better in the slow.

“Actually last year we won the rally from the technical sections and just kept up in the fast.”


But just because Toyota is aiming to try and bring a rally version of its TS050 Hybrid to Finland, that doesn’t mean it is bringing an entirely new car.

It can’t. The regulations simply wouldn’t allow it. In fact, it won’t be bringing many new parts at all. Primarily, it will be tweaking the tools already at its disposal, something which can be done on its Finland pre-event test.

“The basis of the car will be the same,” Fowler explained. “The cars are actually the same ones.

“We don’t have any new big development parts.


“We’ll just spend a day with each driver changing a bit the setup. Not really trying to find something better, let’s say, because the surface condition and the stage conditions are quite a lot different.

“The cars are in the same window [as Estonia] but we are not intending to use the same setup.”

Rally Estonia was the first of the ‘speed events’ featuring in this year’s World Rally Championship. But Estonia has more technical elements, so the setups had to be inherently softer so as not to lose too much pace in the tighter sections.

But with Finland, drivers can afford to tighten everything up. The stages are all fairly similar to each other, meaning you don’t need a jack-of-all-trades car in your possession.

“[Finland is] more consistent. You can narrow everything down a little bit.

“Here [Estonia] we’ve seen there’s very fast sections which are Finland-esque, but then there’s also very narrow sections which are still very fast, but then there are narrow sections which are also technical.

“So you need a car that’s got a little bit of everything all the time.

“In Finland, if you drive each stage of Finland, the variation is much smaller.

“So you can pinpoint the car is for those stages whereas here you need to go, yeah, it’ll be OK in stage three and still be good in stage four.”

Full race mode it is then. And what a glorious spectacle it will be for it.

Words:Rob Hansford