Four-time world champion Tommi Mäkinen chauffered Toyota president Akio Toyoda through the forests today (Friday) at Neste Oil Rally Finland in the Japanese company’s new four-wheel drive GT86 car.
It was the first public appearance of the car that Toyoda asked Mäkinen to build. It came just 24 hours after Toyoda took the wheel himself at a private test session on roads close to Tommi Mäkinen Racing headquarters, near the rally base in Jyväskylä.
Mäkinen drove the car at competitive speeds over the opening section of the Kakaristo special stage (SS7) just before the test went live for competitors. The route passed in front of a hospitality area populated by Toyota guests.
Toyoda’s visit furthered speculation that Toyota is investigating a possible return to the WRC, which the company left in 1999 after winning four drivers’ and three manufacturers’ titles.
He did not discuss this possibility but said: “Please look at our activities in the future.
“I came here to learn about WRC but what I found out is that Toyota’s DNA of rally is really, really a lot to me. As a top guy of the company I want to continue that kind of legend, but Toyota is a big company and nobody listens to the president!
“So I have to show everyone that Toyota needs rally to make ever-better cars. The main objective it to make car fans and make ever-better cars,” Toyoda said.
“In the first part of the year I met Tommi in Japan. He invited me to see WRC and recommended that I should drive in Finland where there are lots of interesting roads.
“Also, I ask him to make a car for me. And that’s this red one which he drove and I co-drove in. But for me no notes - I just enjoy. I’m the luckiest person to see the WRC from that kind of seat!” added Toyoda.
Mäkinen said after the Kakaristo drive: “It was 11 years ago I drove here last and I had such nice memories. I enjoyed it. There was good grip and I’m sure Mr Toyoda enjoyed it a lot too.”