Maki­nen-run out­fit has “dif­fer­ent” car con­cept to WRC ri­vals

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By David Evans

Toy­ota will sur­prise the op­po­si­tion with a dif­fer­ent con­cept for its all-new Yaris WRC when it re­turns to the World Rally Cham­pi­onship next sea­son.

That’s the pre­dic­tion of the Fin­land-based team’s chief of en­gi­neer­ing Tom Fowler.

Speak­ing at length to the me­dia for the first time last week, Fowler and team prin­ci­pal Tommi Maki­nen out­lined Toy­ota’s cur­rent po­si­tion in the car’s de­vel­op­ment as well as its plans for drivers in the com­ing sea­son.

New year, new car

As has been the case with all of the teams, Toy­ota is us­ing the cur­rent Yaris as a mule car, with a new Yaris base road car con­firmed in time for the start of next sea­son.

Fowler said: “It won’t be a prob­lem for the new car, un­der­neath it’s not so dif­fer­ent. We’re able to pro­duce the cur­rent test cars us­ing data for the 2017 road car, so on the out­side the test car looks like a 2015 car, but on the in­side it’s a 2017 car.”

Talk­ing of the scope for mak­ing a dif­fer­ence with the new reg­u­la­tions, which al­low cars more aero­dy­nam­ics and power, Fowler said Toy­ota had some­thing up its sleeve.

“The over­all con­cept is quite dif­fer­ent [from the other teams],” he said. “It’s too early for me to ex­plain where these dif­fer­ences are phys­i­cally with the car, that would give away some­thing we feel will be an ad­van­tage to us.”

He did, how­ever, hint at an aero­dy­namic change, say­ing: “In the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion cars there was not much tar­get­ing on aero­dy­nam­ics. Go­ing to the other ex­treme, if you look at Formula 1 cars, they will com­pro­mise every sin­gle sus­pen­sion com­po­nent for a small amount of aero. Now that’s not some­thing that ral­ly­ing has ever seen be­fore and it’s not to say we will fully com­pro­mise ev­ery­thing for aero, but the bal­ance has changed. We have been able to de­sign the chas­sis, sus­pen­sion, the en­gine and trans­mis­sion in­stal­la­tion and that gave scope to the peo­ple work­ing on the over­all body de­sign and [al­lowed] aero­dy­nam­ics to have their in­put as well.”

Two be­fore three

Toy­ota is likely to start next sea­son run­ning just two Yaris WRCS, with a third car com­ing on­line later in the year.

“The in­fra­struc­ture is there to run a three-car team,” said Maki­nen, “but we know it’s pretty big work to build and run three cars from the start. I say it’s eas­ier to start with two and bring the third car af­ter a cou­ple of ral­lies.”

Maki­nen added that Toy­ota’s re­turn to the cham­pi­onship had been well-timed with the big­gest over­haul of tech­ni­cal reg­u­la­tions since the series moved to World Rally Cars in 1997.

“This was a far eas­ier time for us to join the game than if we were in the same po­si­tion three years ear­lier,” Makki­nen added. “Now every­body has to do big work be­cause the cars are so dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent – it’s big changes.”

Maki­nen added that the Yaris has al­ready made big steps in its early de­vel­op­ment.

“The car has im­proved in many ar­eas,” he said. “One im­por­tant area which gives per­for­mance for us is sus­pen­sion. An­other area is the en­gine, this has a dif­fer­ent de­sign now – one with more room for ser­vic­ing. The orig­i­nal en­gine was a bit big­ger and a bit com­pli­cated for ground-clear­ance, now it is more com­pact.”

Who’s driv­ing?

Toy­ota is ex­pected to make de­ci­sions on drivers soon af­ter Rally Ger­many later this month, fol­low­ing con­sul­ta­tion with Ja­pan.

Asked who was in the frame, Maki­nen said: “I can tell you the

names, but you know all of the names, there is El­fyn [Evans], there’s Ott Tanak, Es­apekka Lappi, Teemu Suni­nen and the young comer is Pon­tus Tide­mand. The plan is not de­cided yet, we will dis­cuss with Ja­pan.

“The ques­tion for the drivers is how we see the world: are we look­ing to 2017 or are we look­ing to the fu­ture? This is the area we will dis­cuss very care­fully with Ja­pan and make a de­ci­sion to­gether.”

Maki­nen has made it clear the pri­or­ity is no longer to win from the out­set. Win­ning in 2018 is the tar­get.

“The 2017 sea­son is the year first to learn and an­a­lyse the ral­lies,” he said. “I would like to say we would be ready to fight and to win in 2018. The tar­get for next year? Of course we’d like to see the podium very soon.”

To that end, test driver Juho Han­ni­nen looks in­creas­ingly likely to be kept on.

Maki­nen added: “For learn­ing and analysing every sin­gle rally, Juho would be good. He knows the car tech­ni­cally, he has done the whole test pro­gramme. That could help us be more ready for 2018.” Maki­nen con­firmed Mikko Hir­vo­nen will join the test team this week – but he ruled the for­mer WRC run­ner-up out of a full-time 2017 drive, say­ing: “Mikko wants to con­tinue with his cur­rent pro­gramme [in Dakar with Mini].”

Toy­ota’s new 2017 Yaris WRC is mak­ing progress

run­ning three WRC sea­son with two cars, be­fore Toy­ota be­lieves it will start the 2017 Toy­ota en­gi­neers are work­ing to find pace from new 2017 Yaris WRC chal­lenger

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