Latvala hails Toyota philosophy
By Jason Craig
Thursday 29th June, 2023 - 12:11pm
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s second consecutive 1-2-3-4 finish at Safari Rally Kenya boils down to the shared mentality that everyone within the squad lives and works by, says Team Principal Jari-Matti Latvala.
Latvala made the comments in the wake of another historic weekend for the manufacturer and its GR Yaris Rally1 car in the African country.
Sebastien Ogier held on to make it two wins in three visits, overcoming a myriad of problems including losing the rear tail-gate on his car and an overheating engine on the Sunday leg to beat team-mate and reigning World Rally Champion Kalle Rovanpera by 6.7s.
The race for the final step on the podium was less frenetic, with that going to Elfyn Evans ahead of Takamoto Katsuta. That moved Evans up one place in the title race to third and narrowed the gap between himself and Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville – who was disqualified from the event – to four points.
Although all four GR Yaris Rally1 cars were anything but bulletproof across three long days of competition in the savannah, Latvala hailed the preparedness of everyone, from the mechanics to the crews.
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“I’m really proud of this result, of this team, and of our drivers,” said Latvala. “Coming to Kenya this year, I didn’t think we could achieve a 1-2-3-4 again when the competition has been so tight recently.
“But I think it is not a coincidence that we have managed to do this result here two years in a row. It means we have done things right in the team to prepare for this event, that our crews have done a great job, and that all comes together to make this result possible.
“On this rally, you firstly need a car that is reliable and can take the punishment from these roads, and then you start to look for the performance. This philosophy that our team has had is absolutely the right approach and it shows in the results.”
Latvala also made reference to how drivers’ will to win in the Toyota camp had given rise to tension – but welcomed this saying it was part and parcel of top-flight competition and kept everyone on their toes.
“This year we also had close competition between our drivers and there were maybe some tensions when it got tighter, but this is normal: we want drivers that have the passion to win,” said the Finn. “They can’t all win all at the same time, but I’m sure they will all see what an achievement this result is.”
Rovanpera admitted coming second to Ogier, who is only signed up for a partial programme this season, was hard to stomach. “The battle with Seb got quite tight at the end, and when you miss out on the win by a small margin like this then it’s not always the best feeling for a driver. But at the end we still scored good points for the championship,” he said.