Jari-Matti Latvala wasn’t shying away from the realities of Toyota’s performance on the Acropolis Rally when he faced the media in Lamia.
“It has been my most challenging weekend as team boss,” he told DirtFish.
Takamoto Katsuta’s GR Yaris Rally1 was the only one in the top 10, and it was down in sixth. Not the usual form anyone had come to expect from the reigning world champion.
But Latvala – and the rest of his Toyota colleagues – were a little more coy as to why. Some details were shared, like the revelation two drivers had crashed on the test, and some of those drivers (particularly Kalle Rovanperä) weren’t shy to tell us he wasn’t comfortable with the car and that it lacked grip.
Understandably, during the heat of competition with live cameras following their every move, Toyota wasn’t willing to say any more than that.
But almost two weeks on, following some extensive debriefs, Latvala has let DirtFish in on the full story.
“Well everything started to go wrong in the test,” he said.
“I think overall it’s been the worst test we have had so far with Toyota, we had some technical issues where there was some rain, two of our boys went off.
“Things can happen but the problem was we were running out of kilometers, and of course we had done some updates on the suspension and we would have needed more kilometers.
“And the boys didn’t have enough kilometers with the new suspension settings, that was basically the problem when we came to the rally – that we had something new which we had not been able to run enough and do the finetuning.”
Which explains why none of the drivers had any confidence or comfort in the car.
“Yes exactly, exactly. That already was seen in the shakedown, the drivers didn’t have the confidence and we could feel that OK now it’s going to be a tough event, and of course we were hoping, I said to them that the main target is just to stay patient, it can be a difficult event for us but let’s try to stay patient and try to score the points we can.
“But then unfortunately we had these mechanical issues which were then dropping Elfyn and Esapekka out.”
For the avoidance of doubt as well, Evans’ issue has been confirmed as a turbo problem but the root cause is yet to be identified.
But what about the suspension? Were these new parts specific to a Greece, Sardinia and Safari-style car?
“Well it’s more the surface where you try to work with the car, when you have to be on the hard surface with hard tires and when it’s a bit slippy, this was the area where we were struggling in Sardinia and of course from experience of Sardinia we tried to improve for Greece,” Latvala explained.
“But basically we were running out of kilometers and we didn’t have enough information and that’s where we went wrong.”
And of course once the cars had been scrutineered, they were locked into using the same parts on the suspension so nothing could be done to rescue the situation.
At least this won’t be a problem next week, when the World Rally Championship takes on a very different challenge on Rally New Zealand.
“You want the car to be a bit like Rally Finland but probably not as stiff as in Rally Finland, it needs to be a bit more progressive because there’s a fine gravel on the top and the stages are not as… they’re fast but not as fast as Finland, there’s a bit more corners, a bit more turning, a bit more technical,” Latvala shared.
“So based on Finland but a little bit of a downgrade from Finland.”
Can you ever remember a time when Toyota struggled on roads like Finland…?