Toyota on verge of seventh Teams’ title in Chile
By Jason Craig
Saturday 23rd September, 2023 - 8:03am
Toyota Gazoo Racing could wrap up a third consecutive World Rally Championship Manufacturers’ title on this weekend’s Rally Chile should results at the South American fixture go in its favour.
Leading the standings by 91 points, the Japanese manufacturer will be assured of the trophy if its drivers can outscore Hyundai Motorsport by 13 points or more at the Concepcion-based meeting.
If successful, it will take Toyota’s World Rally Championship record to seven manufacturers’ titles – only one behind Citroen Racing and three shy of Lancia, the series’ all-time record holder with ten.
A one-two finish on last month’s Acropolis Rally in Greece has put Toyota in the box seat to seal the constructors’ bragging rights with the Central European Rally (25-29 October) and Rally Japan (16-19 November) remaining. However, Team Principal Jari-Matti Latvala is not getting ahead of himself.
“After the great result for the team in Greece, it is looking good for us in all the championships but with three events to go, there is still some important work to do to secure the titles and continue maximising our results,” admitted the Finn. “It’s certainly going to be interesting to go back to Chile.”
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This is the first time since 2019 Rally Chile has featured on the World Rally Championship calendar and only the second time in the history of the competition. Comprising 16 special stages totalling 320.98 competitive kilometres, much of this weekend’s route is new compared to four years ago.
Toyota’s three-car line-up will consist once again of defending World Champion Kalle Rovanpera and Elfyn Evans who are currently first and second in the points table. The third GR Yaris Rally1 will be piloted by Takamoto Katsuta as Frenchman Sebastien Ogier has elected to skip the long-haul event.
In 2019, when he was part of the M-Sport Ford set-up, Evans came fourth overall, whilst Rovanpera won the WRC2 Pro class aboard a Skoda Fabia R5 and Katsuta was triumphant in the WRC2 division.
“Greece was a good result for us and the championship is looking better for us again, but we need to focus hard for the next event because Chile is going to be another big challenge,” said Rovanpera.
“The last time we were there, I was driving a Rally2 car and we had a good weekend. But I think that after four years, and with a lot of new stages, it is going to feel more like a new rally and it is going to be a challenging event for everyone,” added the Finn who starts Friday first on the road.