How Toyota bounced back in NZ after disastrous Acropolis Rally

The technical director of Toyota Gazoo WRT, Tom Fowler, is talking about how his team rebounded at Rally New Zealand after Acropolis Rally and why they were not able to achieve a good result in Greece.

More specifically, Esapekka Lappi had a crash during his test forAcropolis Rally resulting in postponing Takamoto Katsuta's test for one day as the Toyota mechanics wanted to fix the Yaris for the next days. Therefore, Katsuta and Kalle Rovanpera got behind the wheel of the car at the same day which means that they did not have enough time to try new things and overall the Japanese team's test was shortened by one day (it was scheduled for a four-day test, but after EP's crash the test lasted three days).

In Greece, only Katsuta finished inside the top ten (6th place overall) as Elfyn Evans was forced to retire on the final day of the rally due to turbo problems whereas Kalle Rovanpera lost major time after hitting a tree which resulted in losing the tailgate of his Yaris. Finally, Lappi restarted under the regulations of Rally2 as he retired on Saturday due to fuel-related problems.

On the other hand, Rally New Zealand was a successful event for Toyota as the team did a 1-2 and Rovanpera secured his maiden title in WRC there.

"We actually had a really good preparation for Rally New Zealand as a team because coming out of Acropolis Rally the team was, I would say, disappointed by the result but with a huge amount of motivation", Fowler said.

"That was the thing, that really everyone came away knowing like ‘we haven’t done a great job here, we’ve had some difficulties, but there’s no point sitting around trying to explain what happened and making excuses isn’t going to do anything’.

"So we just went back to our test area in Finland where we did our pre-event test for this rally, we had an excellent three days there with all the drivers.

"Just the whole team came together. 

"Obviously we’re close to the base, we put together a really strong engineering team which is difficult to do for foreign events because you need to somehow limit who you take and the vehicles you have and everything.

"We were able to operate using all of the knowledge of all of our different engineers, so we had all the engineers that represent each of our drivers, we had our development team, we had myself, all working together to really analyze, in the detail, all day what we’re doing and saying ‘are we going really in the right direction?’, and this was really a key".

Finally, he said that the rain did not help Toyota to find the right set-up Acropolis Rally: "We didn’t have all our homework done, there’s no two ways about it.

"We’d gone to the test, it was absolutely torrential rain, quite cold temperatures for the first day of the test. 

"Obviously when you want to put a hard tire on the car to understand how to set up the hard tire on the car for a rally that’s coming, to have a day that’s completely full of torrential rain is not ideal.

"Then moving forwards we had a couple of accidents as well which meant our test team had to do superhuman work, working all night, all of the next day to repair damaged cars in order to get the car running for other drivers.

"So it was really a monumental challenge from our test team to have any kilometers at all, and after we came away from our test we had a lot of blank lines in our notes where we hadn’t been able to complete tests.

"Tests were done on the wrong weather condition or the wrong road condition and so we had to try to piece together some kind of a plan for a rally we had no history with this car. 

"If another team had a really nice week testing in hot sunshine with no accidents and lots of kilometers, it was always going to be difficult".


Photo Credits: Toyota

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