March 6, 2017
TOYOTA TO ADD SPICE TO RALLY MEXICO
Toyota aims to add spice to its assault on the World Rally Championship (WRC) when its fledgling team heads to the gravel of Mexico this week following an unexpected last-round victory in Sweden.
Displaying an upbeat mood in its debut season, the Toyota Gazoo Racing world rally team is looking to build on positive early results that have propelled Finn Jari-Matti Latvala and his Yaris WRC to leadership of the driver's championship and Toyota to second in the manufacturer's title.
Rally Mexico, which has been part of the WRC calendar since 2004, is the first true gravel round of the year after the wintry conditions in Sweden last month and January's Monte Carlo season-opener.
It is known for ambient temperatures around 30°C and a route that peaks at 2,737-metres above sea level, starving engines of air and cutting power by as much as 20 per cent.
The world-famous Zócalo square in the historic centre of Mexico City will provide the stage for an extra-special beginning to this year's four-day rally, with two runs over a testing 1.57km course on Thursday night (Mexico time).
Latvala won Rally Mexico last year while the team's other driver Juho Hänninen has just one previous start there, back in 2011.
Team principal Tommi Mäkinen said they were keeping their feet firmly on the ground in progressing from victory in the snow and ice of Sweden to the hot temperatures and high altitude of Mexico.
"The majority of our testing has been on gravel, so we can be reasonably confident of this surface as we head for Mexico," Mäkinen said.
"Last year we tested on gravel in Spain with ambient temperatures of up to 40 degrees and the engineers have also done a lot of work on the engine mapping for altitude, but until you experience these things together for real, you never know," he said.
Latvala said staying consistent while trying to do his best was vital for attaining a good championship position at the end of the year.
"There's always a great atmosphere in Mexico: the fans called me 'La Bala' - which means 'the bullet' - last time, so I hope not to disappoint them this year!" Latvala said.
Toyota motorsport: In 2017, Toyota marks the 60th anniversary of its first international motorsport entry (and the first by a Japanese car manufacturer), when it contested the 1957 Round Australia Trial. This is why many people consider Australia to be the birthplace of Toyota motorsport. Today, Toyota contests the FIA-sanctioned World Rally Championship (WRC), World Endurance Championship (WEC) which features the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the gruelling Dakar Rally. Closer to home, the Toyota 86 Racing Series seeks to develop the talent of tomorrow as Australia's premier grassroots circuit-racing category.