After their 1-2 at the opening round of the WRC 2021, Rally Monte Carlo, Toyota WRC Gazoo Racing now has its sights set on the next challenge, the Arctic Rally, which is due to be held from February 26 to 28 in Finland. With that in mind, they have just concluded an intense week of testing this past Friday in this Scandinavian country.
Luckily for them, their headquarters are also in Finland (Jyväskylä), the same country that will host the second round of the World Rally Championship. The Japanese team has thus been able to carry out its testing program at home, with all their four drivers present.
Although their testing site is 560 kilometres away from Rovaniemi, the nerve centre of the Scandinavian event, the weather conditions and terrain are very similar to those that they will encounter for the competition in three weeks’ time.
The white and frozen landscapes have thus been perfect as a testing ground for the current leaders of the constructors’ standings (Toyota WRC) to acclimatise to their next rally; the only winter appointment in the calendar this season.
After excelling at Montecarlo, the main goal of these first rounds of testing in Finland for Toyota WRC was to start working on the required modifications of the vehicle’s specs.
At the alpine race in January, they had to contend with the muddy, snowy and icy asphalt. In Finland, however, the reality will be considerably different with plenty of snow and ice and unusually low temperatures (-20ºC).
Getting used to the extreme weather conditions, as well as the performance of the Pirelli tires, which are back in the championship this season, will be the keys to success for Toyota WRC.
Evans has his sights set on Ogier
The man in charge to kickstart the testing sessions of Toyota WRC last Tuesday, February 2 was Elfyn Evans. Accompanied by his co-driver Scott Martin, the Welshman squeezed all the juice from his Yaris WRC.
Having started 2021 just as he ended the previous campaign, defeated by his teammate and rival for the title, Sebastien Ogier, the #33 is determined to defeat him at the next opportunity. He desperately needs to demonstrate the Frenchman – and himself – that he is a serious candidate for the crown.
Rovanperä happy to be home
On Wednesday 3, Toyota WRC´s Kalle Rovanperä was next at the wheel. Rovanperä comes from the very same region where the training was taking place, and this happy coincidence was obvious in the performance of the Finn.
The snow proved to be the natural habitat of the local hero. The videos that emerged from the sessions show the ease and confidence with which Harry Rovanperä’s son flies through the spectacular landscapes that are so familiar to him.
The obvious skill of the young Finn, as well as the familiar terrain, will play in his favour at the Arctic Rally WRC making him a strong candidate for one of the champagne positions. The #69, however, wants nothing less than the gold in the land where he came to be.
Takamoto struggles in the snow
A very different testing experience has been that of his Toyota WRC´s Takamoto Katsuta. The Japanese partner was not in the best of shapes when the time came for him to climb onto the Asian machine on Thursday.
He managed to slide off the track in two separate occasions, one in the morning and the other one in the afternoon, and in both ended trapped in a snowbank.
This was only a first test aimed at exploring the limits the machine and of the drivers themselves, but Katsuta needs to get enough practice under his belt in order to not make the same mistakes on race day.
Leader of the standings, Sebastien Ogier, was the last behind the wheel this Friday to close off the Toyota training week. He completed his training programme with no major difficulties.
Images of Toyota WRC: Henri Vuorinen.