Wed 14 Dec 2022

Season Review: Toyota Gazoo Racing

How can you find fault with another clean sweep for the defending manufacturers’ champion? For Sébastien Ogier read Kalle Rovanperä and for Yaris WRC read GR Yaris Rally1.

The result? The same. More gold.

But was it a faultless season? Very close. But not quite.

It would be ridiculous to describe Rovanperä as the find of the season, but it was certainly the season when he found a way to turn a rally win into a crown. Team-mate Sébastien Ogier’s decision not to contest the full season for the first time in 10 years opened a window of opportunity which the 22-year-old Finn took full advantage of.

Having looked and learned at Ogier for the last two years, Kalle asserted Séb-style dominance of his own and had title number one won with two rounds remaining. Underpinning his domination – and Finland’s first drivers’ title since Marcus Grönholm in 2002 – were six superb wins.

Those wins came on all surfaces. After his Swedish success in the snow, that last-stage victory on the Croatian Tarmac was nothing short of miraculous. Further success followed on rough gravel in Africa and fast gravel in Estonia and New Zealand.

If the Japanese manufacturer as afraid of a future without a full-time Ogier, Rovanperä’s campaign this season did plenty to settle those nerves. 

While Rovanperä found comfort immediately aboard the hybrid Yaris, Elfyn Evans struggled to take the sort of confidence he’d banked on to finish runner-up through the previous two WRC seasons. Evans battled on, finished second four times and looked to have Japan in a vice-like grip before a mistake and a preference for dry tyres on a very wet Sunday in Aichi.

The second half of Evans’ season was far stronger, which makes for a fascinating 2023…

Ogier and Esapekka Lappi shared a GR Yaris Rally1. The Frenchman failed to get the rub of the green for much of the year, but delighted in a cracking victory in Spain. 

Lappi showed plenty of promise and provided a good haul of points before deciding he fancied jumping ship to Hyundai for next season. The Finn will be missed, but Takamoto Katsuta stepping up to the factory team on the events where Ogier won’t be competing is fantastic news for him and recognition of Toyota’s own driver development programme.

The highlight of the year for Toyota? Undoubtedly the Safari Rally. A one-two-three-four finish for the four factory GR Yaris Rally1s was an amazing achievement in year one of a new homologation cycle. 

 

Latvia
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Italy
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Hungary
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM