Toyota Gazoo Racing eyes South American gravel glory

Rally Argentina and Rally Chile next!

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By Olivier Ferret

21 April 2019 - 12:38
Toyota Gazoo Racing eyes South (...)

A run of consecutive gravel-based events for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team begins with a double-header in South America. First comes an established classic event, Rally Argentina (April 25-28), where the Toyota Yaris WRC claimed victory in 2018. A brand new challenge will follow in the form of Rally Chile (May 9-12). The team approaches both events with confidence along with its driver line-up of Ott Tänak, Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke, who have all tasted victory in Argentina in recent years.

Part of the FIA World Rally Championship calendar almost every year since the event began in 1980, Rally Argentina takes place over a variety of gravel stages, from sandy roads in the valleys to rocky tracks in the mountains. Watersplashes are a common feature at the many river crossings, while fog is a familiar sight over higher terrain.

The 2019 event remains faithful to a trusted format out of the lakeside Villa Carlos Paz resort, where the action begins with a Thursday night super special. Most of Friday’s stages take place to the south in the Santa Rosa de Calamuchita Valley, while Saturday’s stages run to the north-west in the Punilla Valley. Sunday has three stages in the Traslasierra mountains including two passes of the famous El Cóndor – the latter as the rally-ending Power Stage.

Chile’s first-ever WRC round will be based in the port city of Concepción and feature medium-fast stages on smooth and compact gravel roads through forests, as well as some more open sections with views of the Pacific Ocean. Crews will have to make a full set of pace notes from scratch during the pre-event recce, and decide on a car setup without testing in Chile, which is prohibited by the regulations.

Rally Chile will begin with two loops of three stages south of Concepcion on the opening day, which will end with a stage on the city streets. A compact second day features three stages each run twice closer to the city. Sunday is made up of four stages in total, starting and finishing with a stage that begins by the Bio Bio river and ends at the Pacific coast.

With a gap of less than two weeks between the two South American events, the preparation for the teams is more complex, and must consider both rallies. They are defined as ‘linked rallies’ by the regulations, meaning that for cars classified in the final stage in Argentina, the same chassis, engine and transmissions (including spare transmissions) must also be used in Chile.

Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal)

“We didn’t get the results that we hoped for in our last rally in Corsica, but the confidence in the team is high going into the next two events in South America. Argentina is of course a rally that everybody knows well, including our drivers. Ott was very strong there when he won for us last year, and I think he is feeling good about his chances again. I know it’s a rally that both Jari-Matti and Kris enjoy too. Chile is a bit of question mark for all the teams, but we understand that the road conditions should be very smooth, and I believe it should suit our car. We have been testing in Portugal to prepare for the upcoming rallies on gravel, working on the suspension to give us more grip and traction. Having these next two events back-to-back like this certainly provides the team with some more challenges. Doing the rebuild of the cars down there between events will be a new thing for us, but hopefully there won’t be too much work for the guys to do!”

Ott Tänak

“I’m feeling good about Rally Argentina. It’s the event where we managed to take our first win for Toyota last year, and we are expecting nothing less this year. I believe that we should be able to perform well again there. The fast roads and the kind of surface that we have in Argentina should really suit our car quite well. It’s a really tough event, as the stages can turn very rough in places, so there are points where you need to take some extra care. As for Chile, I don’t really know what to expect, as I haven’t been there before. There are a few things that we’ve been able to find out in advance, but we’ll only really discover how the stages are when we get there and see them for ourselves in the recce.”

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Rally Argentina is one of the greatest events we have in the WRC. There is a lot of passion and a lot of spectators: some of them camping in the mountains, waiting to see the rally cars come by. The rally itself has some very nice, beautiful stages. The main challenge is that they can get quite rough for the second pass. On the other hand, I have been looking at how the roads are in Chile, and that won’t be a rough event: there are no rocks and the sides of the road are very clean. Some places actually remind me of how the forest stages in Britain are when they’re dry. My motivation is now very high, and I’m looking forward to getting started on these two events and being in the fight.”

Kris Meeke

“Argentina has always been a rally that I’ve enjoyed and I have some good memories from there, particularly my first ever WRC win in 2015. I’ll be hoping to try and have a clean rally. Mexico and Corsica could have been a lot better for me, so I’m definitely looking to have a top result. I had three days of testing on gravel in Portugal last week and I think we’re in good shape for Rally Argentina. We’ve got five gravel events in a row coming up and they’re all rallies I go well on, aside from Chile which is new for everyone. As drivers we won’t know exactly what we’re facing until we get to Chile and do the recce, but events in South America are always really well-supported with a great atmosphere, and I’m sure this one will be no different.”

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