The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team will take on Rally Portugal from May 17-20 with the aim of continuing the momentum gathered with its recent victory in Argentina. Ott Tänak – who in South America claimed his first win since joining the team – Esapekka Lappi and Jari-Matti Latvala all head to Portugal confident in the progress that has been made with the development of the Toyota Yaris WRC, as demonstrated in Argentina.
Rally Portugal is based in the north of the country, with the service park situated in Matosinhos near the city of Porto. The event takes place over technical roads with a soft and sandy gravel surface. Grip can be hard to find for the drivers running first on the road on the opening pass of each stage, while deep ruts and exposed rocks can add to the challenge on the second pass.
The rally will get underway on Thursday evening with a ceremonial start at Guimarães Castle followed by a super special stage on the Lousada rallycross circuit. On Friday there will be two loops of three stages in the north – near the border with Spain – before two runs of a Porto street stage to close the day. Saturday's action is focused on the Cabreira Mountains, before the rally comes to a conclusion on Sunday with five stages in the Fafe region, including the iconic Fafe test itself as the Power Stage.
Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal)
"Following our victory in Argentina, I think the confidence is pretty high in the team at the moment and we are very much looking forward to Rally Portugal. It sounds like we had a good pre-event test last week and that everything went well there. I am feeling really confident that we can have another strong performance in Portugal, because the conditions there are very similar to Argentina. I won twice in Portugal during my career and I would say that it is a slightly easier rally, or at least it is not quite so tricky, mostly because it is not so rocky. You don't have to be quite as accurate with the driving as in Argentina. They are both fast rallies, but in Portugal I would say there is a bit more room to play with. Therefore, normally it should be not as challenging, but of course it is always challenging when you are trying to fight for the win. Still, I am sure we can have another good rally."
Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 7)
"Even though my rally ended early, there were positives to take from Argentina: the car felt really, really good and the speed was also good for me before my retirement. This gives me great confidence going to Rally Portugal. I believe our car will be strong again in Portugal. It is quite a similar rally to Argentina, with the main differences being that the surface is smoother and the roads are a bit more flowing. Therefore, I see no reason why the car shouldn't work well in Portugal. We had two days of pre-event testing there last week and I am really happy with how that went. I had our test driver Juho Hänninen with me during the test: we were working together to fine-tune the car and I am really pleased with how the car feels."
Ott Tänak (Driver car 8)
"We certainly go to Portugal with a good feeling. We obviously know just how well the car can perform. Everything felt good too in our pre-event test last week, where we were just trying to find some more improvements and even better performance. Portugal has always been one of my favourite events. It's always really nice to go there: there is a great atmosphere. It is also the place where everything started for me in the WRC in 2009. Our aim is to perform as well as in Argentina, but let's see how it goes. I think Friday will be critical with our road position: we have two cars in front of us so we will have some lines to follow, but normally the cleaning has more of an effect in Portugal. It is important to get another strong result for the championship: we closed the gap a bit in Argentina and now we aim to do the same in Portugal."
Esapekka Lappi (Driver car 9)
"Portugal is where I started to compete in a World Rally Car last year, so I think that everything should be a little bit easier from this point onwards. In the first part of the season there were ups and downs, but I was pretty surprised with how good the speed was on some events. There were many positives and we just need to try to learn from the negative moments and be better in the second half of the year. It is going to help to have already done the upcoming rallies with this car. That is especially true for Portugal as it will be basically the same roads as last year. Argentina was already good from a car setup point of view, but I think we still made a small step forward on the pre-event test. I am pretty confident this time to start to push from the first stage: the approach will be different to Argentina."
The statistics (Rally Portugal):
|Year||Jari-Matti Latvala||Ott Tänak||Esapekka Lappi|
What happened last year?
Toyota finished last year's Rally Portugal with all three of its cars inside the top 10, having entered a trio of drivers for the first time. Juho Hänninen came seventh, Jari-Matti Latvala finished in ninth place despite not feeling well, and Esapekka Lappi was 10th on his debut in a World Rally Car, also scoring points on his first Power Stage in the Yaris WRC. Lappi also made a spectacular jump over the famous Fafe jump, which was later named as the best action moment of the 2017 motorsport season by the FIA following a fan vote.
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