The three TOYOTA GAZOO Racing drivers have completed the opening stage of Wales Rally GB, with Jari-Matti Latvala taking an early second place. His team-mates Esapekka Lappi and Juho Hänninen sit in sixth and eighth respectively.
The first stage in Tir Prince on the north Welsh coast was just 1.49 kilometres in length, taking place on a trotting track normally used for horse racing. The Yaris WRC drivers completed the stage without any problems, having earlier enjoyed a successful shakedown stage at Clocaenog that was far more representative of the three days of action ahead on gravel forest tracks.
Tom Fowler (Chief Engineer)
“Everything has gone well today. Shakedown was good because it was relatively similar to how the rest of the rally will be, and even though we didn’t need to do any particular setup work because we had a really good test, it was nice to be able to confirm that everything was working in terms of performance and reliability. Wales offers very different conditions to the rest of the gravel rallies we’ve done. Even if the weather stays fairly dry, the roads are always slippery and damp, so we’ve done some work to make the cars more suitable for that. Although it’s tricky to know for sure until the first proper stage starts tomorrow morning, we’re feeling quite confident at the moment.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 10)
“The grip in shakedown was better than I expected. On the first run I had a bit too much oversteer but we adjusted something and after that it was really good and I was very happy with the car. It felt good in the first stage as well. Tomorrow I think the most challenging thing will be finding the confidence with the braking, as the grip levels are always changing. This is my 16th start in Rally GB: I was here for the first time when I was 17 years old back in 2002. I would like to have a clean event and to get to the finish, and hopefully we can be somewhere in the top three.”
Juho Hänninen (Driver car 11)
“Honestly, this isn’t my favourite rally but in the shakedown the car felt quite good and the times were competitive. There was at least some grip, rather than sliding all the time, so that gave me a bit of confidence. Tonight’s stage all went OK: the grip on the horse racing track was better than I expected. Tomorrow is a long day without service so we need to try and get a good approach: fast but still on the safe side. The long stage, Hafren, will be the big challenge as it was quite muddy on the recce. We just need to have a relaxed drive and everything should be good.”
Esapekka Lappi (Driver car 12)
“On the shakedown I was lacking confidence a little in the beginning. In our test last week we had fully dry conditions so I needed to try and learn the grip level again here as the stages are very damp. There were some small issues with the car but these were fixed before the first stage, which went fine. Friday will be a tough challenge as there isn’t a mid-day service, so you need to keep the car on the road. I think the main goal for us after two recent retirements is to score some points.”
End of Day 1 (Thursday):
1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1m09.7s
2 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +0.4s
3 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +0.6s
4 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1.1s
5 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1.1s
6 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1.2s
7 Dani Sordo/Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1.2s
8 Juho Hänninen/Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1.3s
9 Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC): +1.3s
10 Hayden Paddon/Seb Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC): +1.6s
(Results as of 22:00 on Thursday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
Since 2013, the Rally GB service park has been situated at the Toyota Manufacturing UK engine plant in Deeside, North Wales, close to the border with England. Some engines produced at Deeside are used in cars made at the Burnaston plant in Derbyshire, England (where the Avensis and Auris models are built) while others are exported to countries including South Africa, Turkey, Brazil and Japan. Earlier this month, TMUK Deeside celebrated 25 years of engine manufacturing, with over five million engines having been produced there since 1992. In 2010, it became the first plant outside of Japan to produce Toyota’s class-leading hybrid engines.
Tomorrow takes the crews south into mid Wales, where they will remain all day, with just a tyre-fitting zone in Newtown rather than any mid-day service. This comes in-between two loops made up of three classic Welsh stages: Myherin, Sweet Lamb and Hafren.
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