Toyota Gazoo Racing boss Tommi Mäkinen is eyeing another podium at next month’s Rally Sweden (9 - 12 February) following Jari-Matti Latvala’s surprise second place at Rallye Monte-Carlo on Sunday.
After 17 years away from WRC, the Japanese manufacturer has made it clear that 2017 will be a learning year with its Yaris World Rally Car, and Latvala’s podium came as a shock after little asphalt preparation.
The result thrilled Mäkinen and he immediately turned his attentions to the WRC’s second round in Sweden, the only pure winter event on the calendar, and the prospects of a repeat performance.
“We’ve done very little testing on asphalt, on gravel we’ve done close to 15,000km and have big experience of those conditions,” he told wrc.com. “Jari-Matti has done five days’ snow testing and he was pretty happy with the Swedish car and confident with that.
“After what we’ve seen here, it’s very, very realistic to think about fighting for a podium position in Sweden,” added Mäkinen, whose team will begin its final preparations with a snow test on home ground in Finland on Sunday.
Juho Hänninen was third on Friday before crashing into a tree and Mäkinen reflected on a debut that far exceeded expectations.
“We came here to learn and to see where we are standing and suddenly we knew this already on Thursday night. It was something amazing, everything was perfect, so perfect.
“We had a little drama with Jari-Matti which disturbed his concentration because a fuel pressure sensor wasn’t working properly. There was always a risk if he stalled the engine on the stage he would not start it, but how well he handled that situation,” he added.
Second ended a dismal run of form for Latvala, whose last podium came in Finland last July.
“It’s an amazing feeling. You would never imagine being better than second in the first rally with the new car. You can’t ask for more than that. Tommi has created this team and all the energy behind it to build this car and he has done a very good job,” he said.