Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala has adopted the opposite approach to his Hyundai counterpart Andrea Adamo did after a disappointing Monte Carlo Rally, insisting Toyota’s Arctic Rally Finland was a “disappointment” but not a “disaster.”
Testing in -25C and rallying in conditions 25 degrees warmer wrought havoc with the Yaris WRC’s set-up and left the Puuppola squad unable to maintain a 100% 2021 win record, following its round one success in Monte Carlo.
This was particularly galling given Toyota had never been beaten in Finland since it returned to the World Rally Championship in 2017.
The warmer-than-expected conditions meant Toyota started with cars set-up stiffer than needed in an effort to lean on a harder ice base than the one which greeted them.
Kalle Rovanperä was Toyota’s best performer in second place, but the 20-year-old complained about a lack of balance which manifested itself in a car which understeered too much for his liking.
Team-mate Elfyn Evans posted a pair of fastest times, but couldn’t find the confidence to push harder on the second run at stages, when the ruts started to appear. And championship leader ahead of Arctic Rally Finland Sébastien Ogier parked his Yaris WRC in a snowbank on Saturday’s final stage.
“Being in Finland, we were expecting more,” team principal Jari-Matti Latvala told DirtFish.
Sometimes you cannot take the win on your home round. I remember this from Volkswagen. We had a lot of success everywhere but not at homeJari-Matti Latvala
“We were expecting to win on our home soil – from that side, the result was a bit of a disappointment. But Kalle did a very good job and in doing that he helped us to lead the championships, this is important.
“I don’t think the result was a disaster. I think we were unlucky with the conditions.
“We had lots of minus temperatures in our test.”
Hyundai tested in similarly deep-freezing conditions locally, but Latvala pointed out that Ott Tänak and Thierry Neuville (first and third overall at Arctic Rally Finland) ran i20 Coupe WRCs at the Otepää Winter Rally where conditions were more similar to what played out in Lapland a fortnight later.
“When it’s very, very cold conditions, then it’s more difficult to get the studs going through the ice – because it’s very solid ice. When it’s warmer, the stud goes through softer ice more easily,” Latvala explained.
“On the icy conditions the car needs to be a bit more stable – when you get the stud through the ice the grip is good. You can take a stiffer car for the icy conditions, which we did, but when you are closer to zero, it needs to be a little bit softer. I think this is where our mistake happened.
“It’s difficult. We wanted to win, but sometimes you cannot take the win on your home round. I remember this from Volkswagen days, when we were trying to win on Rally Germany.
“First year we were all going off the road in 2013 – we had a lot of success everywhere, but not at home. People saw the funny side for this. But when we didn’t win in 2014 as well, it was not funny anymore.
“It was only in 2015 that we were able to give Volkswagen the result at home. Sometimes it doesn’t go that easily even if you think it should be OK.”
Latvala’s Toyota will of course have another chance to make amends on this summer’s Rally Finland in Jyväskylä.