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Fear Toyota whitewash in 2019

ByDavidEvans

Toyotastarts this year chasing back-to-back manufacturer World RallyChampionship titles for the firsttimein25 years – and its rivalsfearthe Japanese giant’s domination of this year’s series. Driversand team principals from allcornersof the service park point to Toyotaasthe team to beat this season, withworldchampion Sebastien Ogier summingupeverybody’s feelings. “Theyareso strong,” said Ogier. “Whenyousee what they could do lastyear,especially in the second half of theyear – we all have a lot of worktodoto stay with them.” Askedif Toyota were favourites going into2019,Ogier was unequivocal, saying: “Fortheteams’ [title], I would say for sure.” Teamprincipal Tommi Makinen did littletoallaythose fears, telling MN therewasmore to come from his team inthecoming year. Asked what he thoughtabout the label of pre-season favourite,Makinen said: “I’m not so sureaboutthat, yet. Look at last year and,yes,wehad so many fastest stage times–butwe did not have as many goodresultsas we should have. We need moregoodresults from the rallies. “Wehavesome work coming with thecar,wehave some [homologation] jokerswhichwe will be using, but maybewedon’t need to do too much withthecar[in terms of performance]. Iwouldsaythe consistency is the importantthing for us to find.”

Whetutition almost two years ago, rivals immediately noticed the strength of the engine – especially the power output. Engine development is completed by Toyota Motorsport in Cologne and the fruits of Germany’s ongoing labours were seen in Finland last season, when TMG delivered an upgrade in time for Tanak to win in Jyvaskyla. The combination of engine and transmission is where Toyota will score well this year – with improvements to both offering more feedback and confidence to the drivers. The engine now gives more torque than ever, allowing the drivers to use the motor to pull themselves out of trouble, especially in tricky conditions where grip is compromised.

Tionraph —>

Plenty wagison, with radiator and engine damage ruling the team out of plenty of points. It’s these issues Makinen is talking about when he speaks of the need for more consistency. Despite those issues, when it came to the really tough test – Turkey – then Tanak delivered another win for the Yaris. Fowler admits, however, that rough rally pace needs significant attention for this season. “If you ask me,” said Fowler, “which rally I was most disappointed with last year in terms of performance, I’d have to say Turkey. OK, we won the rally, but we weren’t there in terms of pace. Everybody broke their suspension except us – maybe you could say we were quite fortunate that we didn’t hit any of the bigger rocks. But look at the first day and we were sixth, without the other cars having problems and some mistakes we might have stayed there. We’ve seen this as a trend last year, in the rougher sections of stages, when we’re down to bedrock, then they’re tough for us. In Turkey we traded protection for performance and we knew when we started that rally out outright speed wasn’t there. “We’ve worked hard to pick up traction in the slower, looser sections and that was one of the car’s big gains last year – but that’s come to the detriment of protection in the suspension, which meant we couldn’t carry the speed through the rough places. We need to work on this, we need some time testing on rough gravel – trouble is, there aren’t many rallies where you need that. It means devoting time to a set-up and car fairly specific to one rally. Generally, rallies are getting easier on the cars which has meant more of a focus on performance.”

The overview

> nsion development is ongoing with Toyota owith the feel and feedback from the Yaris than they were 12 months ago. The only visible change to the outside of the car for 2019 is expected to come around the front of the rear wheel arch, which will have a minor aero tweak to help the natural airflow for cooling. There’s a feeling the car could still shed some weight, but otherwise it’s getting close to the optimum current specification World Rally Car. Toyota Gazoo Racing’s other strength is undoubtedly the support from the parent manufacturer in Japan. Toyota chairman and CEO Akio Toyoda is a personal supporter of Makinen’s work and is regularly seen on events cheering on the Yaris WRCs. That support is reflected in the budget, with Toyota the bestresourced squad in the service park

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