After 4 days of the toughest action it has faced this year, Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT still managed to secure a points finish with both crews in the top 10 for the first time as they headed into the final day separated by just 0.3 seconds. Rally Mexico, the third round of the 2017 World Rally Championship (WRC) combined the challenge of both heat and altitude, meaning that the team had to overcome the same overheating problems that affected most of the field on Friday.
Each driver faced their own additional difficulties: Jari-Matti Latvala ran first on the road to sweep it clean for everyone else during the first day of proper stages, while Juho Hanninen was unwell throughout the event. At the end of the rally, the Toyota team remains runner-up in the Manufacturers’ championship, while Latvala is second in the drivers’ standings and Hanninen is 11th.
The final day had just 2 stages over 54.9 kms, but they were crucial ones as the final stage was also the Power Stage, with additional driver points to collect. Jari-Matti and Juho were both targeting results on this final stage, with Jari-Matti scoring 2 points, thanks to a fourth-fastest time.
“After the amazing moments we had in Monte-Carlo and Sweden, this rally was much more the type of situation we were expecting from this year, but it still gave us a lot of satisfaction as we scored driver points with both drivers for the first time and also had to overcome a lot of difficulties to achieve that. So we are happy with the result and also with the information we obtained on what was only our first-ever gravel rally. Well done to all our drivers, co-drivers, engineers and mechanics for getting us to the finish with both cars under very tricky circumstances. What we have learned will be very useful for the future,” said Tommi Makinen (Team principal of Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT).
Commenting on the problems with the engine, Koei Saga (Team Vice-Principal) said: “Despite the great result obtained in Sweden, we always expected Mexico to be more challenging due to the high temperature and altitude. After our testing, where we simulated as much as we could, we believed we were well-prepared. But the challenges we faced were even tougher than expected. We experienced a problem with overheating on Friday, then thanks to the work of our engineers and mechanics, we were able to solve it by the next morning and bring both Yaris WRC crews to the finish on Sunday, having confirmed over the rest of the rally that the solutions we found were working. These experiences and lessons made both ourselves and the car grow. In that sense, this rally was really meaningful.”
The rally was won by Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle in a Citroen C3 WRC while Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia finished second in a Ford Fiesta WRC. Ogier leads the Drivers championship after 3 rounds, 8 points ahead of Latvala.
The next round will be the Tour de Corse, which will be run from April 6 – 9.