Toyota: it’s time to attack

Japanese manufacturer has been regularly outscored by rival Hyundai on WRC's Super Sundays

Toyota attack

Jari-Matti Latvala is old school. He likes winning rallies. But the World Rally Championship has moved on, and Latvala may need to learn some lessons from the new school. A school where Hyundai is already scoring top marks.

Winning rallies is still important, of course, but Super Sunday and its 12 points have changed the game. Hyundai has quickly understood how to take advantage and, post-Sardinia, leads the manufacturers’ championship by 13 points, while Thierry Neuville leads the drivers’ race by 18.

Neuville and Ott Tänak have two Super Sunday wins each, compared to just one apiece for Toyota’s Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta. Kalle Rovanperä won Safari Rally Kenya, but scored only two points on Super Sunday via the powerstage. Sébastien Ogier won Croatia and Portugal, but was only third fastest across both Sundays.

A clear pattern is emerging and it is one that has resulted in a heap of dropped points for Toyota against a Hyundai team that is maximizing its Sunday performance.

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Hyundai's Thierry Neuville has proved to be the master of Super Sunday scoring

Toyota remains in the thick of both title fights, but Latvala acknowledges that a change in approach may be required.

“We have had, let’s say, good results,” he told DirtFish. “But we need more attack on Sunday. This is clear.”

Toyota’s problems are compounded by the dip in form for Evans and Katsuta’s struggle to take the step from stage winner to rally winner. Ogier and Rovanperä have been left doing much of the heavy lifting despite their part-time status.

Could this lead to Toyota considering a similarly ruthless approach to team orders when it comes to its drivers? No. Latvala is still resisting that, but he does suggest the team needs to be tactically smarter and to consider how to balance its efforts across the whole rally weekend.

“We are not playing tactics with the drivers slowing down or things like that,” he explained. “But general level, we just need to be more in a competition, get into the competition on Sunday rather than thinking about just winning the event – you have to also think about the separate competition on Sunday.”

Despite Hyundai looking so strong and two of his own drivers struggling, Latvala remains calm. Three fast gravel rallies coming up, traditionally a strength of the GR Yaris Rally1, offer an opportunity to shift the momentum.

“If the car would be very slow, then I would be having a night without the sleep,” Latvala said. “And we know still that the car is good and the performance is there. We have a driver who is capable to fight for the victories.”

Getting back on level terms with Hyundai doesn’t require wholesale change, and Latvala believes small refinements will yield the results required to keep his team in the title race.

“There are things we need to just look a little bit different angle and change and improve,” he explained. “We will come back, Poland, with the real fighting spirit. So, we are not losing the faith.”