Toyota Gazoo Racing aims for drivers' championship as they tackle the Central European Rally amid fierce competition between Rovanperä and Evans.
Fresh off their third consecutive manufacturers' championship victory, the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team is set to face an exhilarating challenge at the Central European Rally, the penultimate round of the 2023 season, spanning across Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria from October 26-29.
With the manufacturers' title secured in the previous rally in Chile, the spotlight now shifts to the intense battle between Kalle Rovanperä and Elfyn Evans for this year's drivers' title, accompanied by their respective navigators Jonne Halttunen and Scott Martin, who are also vying for the co-drivers' crown.
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There is a 31-point gap separating Rovanperä and Evans, with a maximum of 60 points up for grabs in the final two rounds. This means Rovanperä could potentially clinch his second consecutive championship in Central Europe if Evans fails to outscore him. However, an Evans victory would guarantee that their rivalry extends to the final round at Rally Japan in November.
Jari-Matti Latvala, the Toyota Gazoo Team Principal, expressed his excitement.
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"To have secured the manufacturers' championship before we enter these final two events is fantastic, and a lot of the focus will now be on the fight for the drivers' title between Kalle and Elfyn," he said.
The Central European Rally poses a unique challenge, being a new event for everyone involved.
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The unpredictable conditions, such as wet and muddy terrain or roads covered in leaves, make it a formidable test for the drivers. Latvala expressed confidence in their car's ability to handle such conditions and encouraged the drivers to push themselves to the limit.
Gazoo team driver Kalle Rovanperä shared his enthusiasm for the upcoming rally.
"The manufacturers' championship is a great achievement for the whole team, and now we will be pushing hard to battle for the drivers' and co-drivers' titles in these last events of the season," he said.
Adding to the excitement, eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier will join the lineup for the Central European Rally. Additionally, Takamoto Katsuta will drive a fourth GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID through the TGR WRC Challenge Program.
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After a series of gravel events across the globe, this rally marks the return to asphalt since the Croatia Rally in April. Notably, it will be the first modern FIA World Rally Championship round to feature stages in three different countries: Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria.
The service park will be situated in the picturesque German city of Passau, with the shakedown set to take place in nearby Tittling on Wednesday afternoon.
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The rally's starting point will be the historic Czech capital city, Prague, and its famous castle, followed by an opening super special stage at the Velká Chuchle horse racing course. The action will continue with a circuit stage around Klatovy before returning to Passau.
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Friday's stages will be exclusively on Czech roads, with a trio of stages to be run twice, bracketing a tire-fitting zone in Prachatice.
Saturday's route will include two tests in Austria and another in Germany, with a mid-day service in Passau.
Sunday's grand finale will consist of stages on both sides of the German-Austrian border, creating an exciting conclusion to the Central European Rally.
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