The Toyota Gazoo Racing Team WRT has made the most of the last days of the year to continue with their intensive training in Sweden before the beginning of WRC 2020, which is due to start on the 23rd of January.
With the added challenge of starting the season with a completely new line-up (Sébastien Ogier, Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanperä), the Asian team is trying to get its new drivers completely comfortable with the Yaris WRC as quickly as possible.
After spending some time on the French Alps, and always with their sights on the Mountain came a very short test in the south of France. After that, the team set sail to the Scandinavian peninsula. In Sweden, the ‘three musketeers’ have trained in the snow for the first time, an essential skill for Rally Sweeden, the second of the season.
Besides building up their kilometres onboard the Japanese missile, none of them had ever tested the car on snow. From the 13th to the 16th of February, however, they will have to come face to face again with this type of surface and they must be prepared.
A key test
The Swedish one is a key test, at least according to Elfyn Evans. The Briton, who has landed in the team after leaving M-SpoRt, his career-long team, had the following to say about the training:
“It was really useful to get a feel for the car in those conditions. And the conditions were good. Obviously, it was very much a gravel set-up in the car, so it’s not going to give us too much insight into what we’d need if it snows in Monte Carlo. It was a lot of fun to drive the car in the snow and great to be testing with the team again.” – Admitted the Welshman -.
Also, as recorded by the WRC official webpage, an authorised Toyota spokesperson has described the conditions and importance of the Scandinavian sessions:
“Fortunately, a week before the team arrived it started snowing in the region where we had to complete the scheduled sessions. Until just a couple of weeks ago, we’d been having a lot of rain and some really miserable weather”.
“But then about a week or so ago the first snow started to come. It was a bit wet and not really ideal for Sweden, but then it came properly. Because of the rain, we’ve got a very good ice base and a lot of snow now – in some ways the conditions were actually too perfect for Sweden!”
A new line-up
It is going to be a challenging season for Tommi Mäkinen’s squad. Despite getting the drivers’ title in 2019 with Estonian driver Ott Tänak, his departure to Hyundai left the team without their greatest asset and leader.
In the end, and just when criticisms where pouring in towards the team’s director, Mäkinen delivered a masterful move. Making the most of Seb Ogier’s discontent with the poor performance of his Citroën C3 WRC, he managed to lure him to Toyota. Finally, the six-time champion and second most successful driver in history behind Loeb, will be wearing the colours of the team.
As for Evans, this will be a great opportunity to progress and try and increase his record of triumphs which so far only includes his victory at Rally Wales in 2017. His objectives: to improve on his 2019 fifth place in the standings and to add points for the constructor’s title.
Finally, rookie and 2019 WRC-2 winner with Skoda, Kalle Rovamperä, will try to grow into a faster and more competitive driver. The 19-year-old talented Finn has himself declared.
Images of Toyota WRT: VuorinenHenri