Tanak and Hyundai caused an upset by winning in the Toyota WRC team’s backyard last weekend, breaking the Japanese marque’s 100 per cent winning record at fast gravel races since returning to the WRC in 2017.
Despite not taking the win, Toyota showed its mettle with all four GR Yaris finishing in the top six. Championship leader Kale Rovanpera led the team, finishing second behind Tanaka by 6.8s, while Esapekka Lappi finished third ahead of Elphin Evans, with Takamoto Katsuta in sixth.
Toyota has so far dominated the new hybrid era of Rally1, with Rovanpera winning five out of eight events driving the GR Yaris, which has proven to be the fastest and most reliable of the 2022 cars. Just last month, the team released a significant engine and rear wing update to the GR Yaris, which debuted at last month’s Rally Estonia, in a bid to unlock more pace.
Speaking after Hyundai’s triumph at Toyota’s home ground, Latvala admitted it was good to see the rivals making progress with the i20 N, but believes his team still has work to do to improve the GR Yaris.
“It’s not very exciting when you win a rally by minutes, so I think it’s good [Hyundai] steps have been taken,” said Latvala. “We also have to keep working and we have to remember that. When someone gets closer, you have to work harder and harder.
“We have to analyze a little bit some areas that we can improve and I think we have some ideas. Elfin complained that the rear of the car didn’t offer enough grip, so maybe that’s an area we need to look at.”
Ot Tanak, Martin Jarveoha, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Photo: Romain Thuillier / Hyundai Motorsport
Reflecting on the weekend, Latvala said he wasn’t “that disappointed” to lose on home soil to Tanak, who had a great weekend.
“To be honest, it’s positive. I am not very disappointed,” he added.
“Overall we had a good weekend, we finished second, third, fourth and sixth, four cars in the top six. We could have won and it’s disappointing.
“We wanted to win at home, but this time Ott had a perfect weekend and was willing to take a risk, and he took a risk. You can’t ride like that for a full championship. This time it all worked out and all I can say is that he had a great race.
“If I was at his place [Rovanpera’s] the position would have gone for victory, but it would have turned out like Jesapekki [Lappi] and I would go, so in the end I think he did a very smart job.”
Toyota continues to lead the manufacturers’ standings with an 88-point lead over Hyundai through five events of the season.