After making a near-perfect start to the 2021 season on Rallye Monte-Carlo last month, the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team will target another strong result on Arctic Rally Finland on 26-28 February.
Making its debut in the FIA World Rally Championship, the event takes the place of the cancelled Rally Sweden as the season’s only pure winter round. The team will travel north from its base in central Finland aiming to continue the strong record of the Toyota Yaris WRC on snow and ice, having claimed three victories in Sweden in the past four seasons.
Following his record eighth Monte-Carlo victory, Sébastien Ogier leads the championship just ahead of team-mate Elfyn Evans (who won for the team in Sweden in 2020) while Kalle Rovanperä is fourth – and looking forward to a bonus event in his home country alongside the championship’s traditional summer visit to Finland.
Born out of the Arctic Lapland Rally held in the area every January, the event will be based in Rovaniemi – capital of Finland’s northernmost region – with some stages taking place inside the Arctic Circle. The location promises great winter rallying conditions, with frozen roads and high snow banks at the sides of the road, which drivers lean on to carry more speed through corners. Special studded tyres will bite into the icy surface to provide grip and some of the highest speeds of the entire season.
The rally will run to a condensed format with 10 stages providing a total of 251.08 competitive kilometres. Following shakedown on Friday morning, the rally features a demanding start with two runs over the longest test of the rally, the 31.05-kilometre Sarriojärvi stage, with the second pass to take place in darkness.
Saturday is the longest day of the rally, with a loop of three stages to be repeated either side of mid-day service with another late finish. The final day on Sunday consists of two passes over the Aittajärvi test, the latter as the Power Stage.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“Our result on Rallye Monte-Carlo was a very special start to the season and I was really happy to see how well the team was working together. Now, we’re looking forward to the first ever Arctic Rally Finland as a round of the WRC. Over the years there has been a lot of talk about how great the event could be as a WRC round with the guaranteed snow.
This year the opportunity has suddenly come up and everyone involved has done a great job to make it happen in a very short space of time. I’m sure it will look fantastic on television with the pure white snow and the sun shining. What’s typical in Lapland are very long, fast corners where you can lose a lot of time if you’re not feeling confident, so the stability of the car is very important.
For us, there will probably be a bit more pressure than usual because it’s a home event and our car has been developed on Finnish roads with these kind of conditions. But I’m confident that we can handle it.”
Source: automobilsport.com Terhi Heloaho – photos Toyota