The Toyota Yaris WRC drivers have had a successful and productive shakedown for Rally Australia, the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship, which gets underway tonight with a ceremonial start. Jari-Matti Latvala set fourth-fastest time, despite not having his regular co-driver with him during the stage. Taking Miika Anttila’s place for the shakedown only was Sarah Jean Bell, a presenter for NBN News Channel Nine: one of the most popular news programmes in Australia. Esapekka Lappi was eighth, with both cars working through the usual preparations and systems checks before the gravel stages begin tomorrow morning.
Tom Fowler (Chief Engineer)
“It was a good shakedown for us on a nice stage: Jari-Matti was at one point fastest of all on his fourth run, and he had a journalist with him in the car at the time, so that must have been a pretty thrilling experience for the lucky person! We actually split the shakedown strategy between the two cars, trying out something slightly different with the front suspension on each one to find the best solution for the rally. And through good teamwork we got there, which contributed to us setting the fastest time. Apart from that, we did the usual engine optimisation work to find the most suitable engine settings for the event, which is part of our usual plan. As there are no stages tonight, it’s a slightly more relaxed Thursday than usual and it’s very calm on the service area; the plan is for it to stay that way over the next three days. It’s a solid start, so we need to carry on like this.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 10)
“There’s always a great holiday atmosphere in Australia; it’s a nice, relaxed feeling around this rally. The roads are fast and flowing, so it’s great to drive as well: I love coming here. I’m happy with the car so far: we’ve been struggling a bit over the last two rallies but now it feels like we’re back on track. The first day of the rally tomorrow is the most difficult one, so I need to be in the groove from the very start. There are some fast sections where you don’t really know if it will be flat-out or not: it will come down to who has the confidence to really attack those fast and long corners. It would be great to finish the season on the podium, so that is my aim for the weekend.”
Esapekka Lappi (Driver car 11)
“Australia is a tough challenge, especially with the stages in the forests, the fast tracks and the dust. Another challenge is the sunlight through the trees: there is a lot of light and shade so it can be hard to have good vision. There are some new stages for me this year, but the others have already done them around five years ago, when they were last on the route. We’ve worked hard on the recce to try and compensate for that. My confidence on the shakedown is the best I have had for three rallies; from the first corners, it felt really good: a bit like it did at the start of the year. For this rally, my target is just to finish as high up the order as possible.”
The story of Toyota in world motorsport actually began in Australia, 60 years ago. Following a request from the Japanese consulate in Australia for a Japanese manufacturer to enter the 1957 Round Australia Rally – which totalled 17,000 kilometres in 19 days – Toyota stepped up to the challenge with its 1.5-litre Toyopet Crown saloon, putting out a modest 48 horsepower. Crewed by Kunio Kaminomura and Koujiro Kondo, the little car completed the punishing route with no problems, finishing 47th overall in an 85-strong field – and sealed the honour of being Toyota’s first entry in international motorsport.
Tomorrow’s action takes place to the north of Coffs Harbour, and includes three new stages run twice either side of a late-morning service halt: Pilbara, Eastbank and Sherwood. The day will end with two passes of a super special stage by the sea in Coffs Harbour itself. The first car will leave service in the morning at 07:30 and return at 17:22 in the afternoon.
PICTURES WILL BE UPLOADED HERE DURING THE EVENT
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