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Wed 21 Sep 2022

Latvala targets Toyota turnaround

Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala is determined to put a tough EKO Acropolis Rally Greece behind him as he looks forward to New Zealand’s return to the series after a decade.

The Japanese manufacturer endured a tough outing at the previous round when Kalle Rovanperä, Elfyn Evans and Esapekka Lappi all hit trouble - leaving Takamoto Katsuta as the team's highest-finishing driver in sixth overall.

Latvala is well versed in what’s needed from New Zealand's heavily cambered North Island roads and he’s looking towards a return to form for the GR Yaris Rally1 which was all-conquering through the first half of the season.

He competed in New Zealand six times and won the event in 2010 while driving a Ford Focus RS WRC. Latvala is hoping the fast, sweeping gravel roads will offer the Toyota more of a feeling of its Finnish home as the Jyväskylä-based squad looks to end Hyundai’s winning run which stretches back through Greece, Belgium and Finland.

“The roads in New Zealand are quite similar like Finland,” said Latvala, “except without so many jumps. Hopefully we’re going to find them well-suited to the Yaris. The last rally in Greece was tough, we know this and we have been working on the reasons for this.

“New Zealand is a very different rally, different roads and stages. Let’s see. It’s a fantastic place to drive the car and I’m sure we’re going to be fighting as a team.

"We have to remember though, [Ott] Tänak is strong - he’s had some strong rallies and he will want to keep the battle going with Kalle [Rovanperä] for the drivers’ title for as long as possible.”

Rovanperä holds a 53-point lead over Tänak heading into the championship's 11th round. He could seal the title by outscoring Tänak by eight points - or just seven, should he win the rally.