Raw gravel rallies proved a weakness for the GR Yaris last year in an otherwise dominant 2022 campaign for the Japanese marque, resulting in a drivers’ and manufacturers’ title double.
The gritty gravel rallies in Sardinia and Greece were the only events Toyota failed to finish on the podium last season. The lack of pace in these conditions prompted the team to find solutions to avoid a repeat in 2023.
This week Toyota headed to Spain to carry out what team principal Jari-Matti Latvala described as a “very important” test ahead of the season opener in Mexico later this month.
Reflecting on the performance of the GR Yaris, world champion Rovanpera is convinced the car is better than the version he drove on gravel last year.
“I think the guys have worked pretty hard on this kind of gravel,” Rovanpera said.
“We weren’t on the pace in these kind of difficult conditions and everyone did a lot of work to improve the car, and it was nice to see already that the car is definitely better in these conditions.
“We’re still working hard to try to eat as much as we can, but we’re definitely going in the right direction.”
Kalle Rovanpera, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Photo: Toyota Racing
Rovanpera heads to Mexico second in the championship standings behind M-Sport’s Ott Tanak after finishing second in Monte Carlo and fourth in Sweden, the latter result coming after a tough run at the ski event.
Aware of the challenges of opening the road on Mexico’s dusty, rough gravel, Rovanpera deliberately dropped back on the Power Stage in Sweden to ensure he would not start first on the road for the third round of the season.
The 22-year-old believes that slight position advantage on the road will prove crucial.
“I think in Mexico it’s important to get even that starting position (back) in the road class,” he added.
“It’s definitely one of the toughest events on the road cleaning calendar so I’m definitely very happy to start second on the road. It will still be a tough job to compare to the guys starting back, but we will do our best.
“The beginning of the season was not the easiest, but it was good that we got good points.
“I think in Sweden we could be better, but the aim in the test was to make the car better and hopefully we can be on the pace for the whole weekend in Mexico and fight for the really good positions.”