Safari Rally proved Toyota’s reliability, boasts team principal after 1-2-3-4 sweep

MOTORSPORTS Safari Rally proved Toyota’s reliability, boasts team principal after 1-2-3-4 sweep

Joel Omotto 17:00 - 27.06.2023

The Toyota Gazoo Racing boss lauded his team for doing their homework well to dominate the grueling Kenyan leg of the World Rally Championship.

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Safari Rally Kenya dominance dispelled any questions surrounding the strength of its GR Yaris cars, team principal Jari-Matti Latvala says.

Concerns were raised over how the Japanese manufacturer would fare in Kenya, arguably the roughest fixture on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar, after several of its drivers bore the brunt of radiator damage sustained in water crossings at the previous round in Italy.

Barring a minor blip for Elfyn Evans, when the Welshman’s car briefly lost power after a splash on Saturday morning, there were no further water-inflicted dramas.

“In Sardinia, there were difficult conditions and it was not normal to have so many water splashes,” Latvala pointed out. “And, yes, there were things we needed to improve. But of course, I think the conditions were a bit extreme there.

“We learned how we need to approach coming to Kenya and how we need to approach the water splashes, and I think this was the only problem we had in Sardinia. We knew otherwise that the car is strong and we showed it here.”

Locking out the leading quartet in Africa for the second consecutive year, Latvala attributed Toyota’s success to the team's steadfast philosophy when approaching the gruelling fixture.

“When we won this 1-2-3-4 last year, I thought it was something that takes decades to win, but it happened one year later,” smiled the Finn. “Coming with the right philosophy has achieved this result.

“What I can say is we have an excellent team of people, a reliable and strong car, and then we have the drivers who have the patience in this event to drive a clever way, which is a combination of driving fast but also slowing down for the rough places and understanding the history of this event.”

Sebastien Ogier defied team-mate Kalle Rovanpera’s charge to head home a dream 1-2-3-4 finish for Toyota Gazoo Racing on a spectacular final day on Sunday.

Finishing as runner-up felt like a personal victory for the title-defending Rovanpera, who extended his championship lead to 37 points after round seven of 13.

Takamoto Katsuta’s hopes of surpassing team-mate Elfyn Evans and achieving a third Safari Rally podium vanished when his car’s hybrid unit stopped working, sapping vital performance. He settled for fourth overall, 25.3sec back from the Toyota-driving Welshman with Ogier and Rovanpera more than two minutes up the road.

Toyota now heads Hyundai Motorsport by 48 points in manufacturers’ championship after round seven of 13.