Having won both the last two FIA World Rally Championship rounds featuring asphalt, Toyota Gazoo Racing

team principal Jari-Matti Latvala has every reason to be optimistic ahead of the Croatia Rally (22 – 25 April).

The Yaris World Rally Car topped the podium at last season’s ACI Rally Monza finale and this year’s opening Rallye Monte-Carlo in the hands of Sébastien Ogier.

Kalle Rovanpera

Another reason for the Finn’s cheer is that his drivers hold three of the top four championship positions – meaning they will take a preferential place in the first day start order at the Zagreb-based sealed-surface third round.

Kalle Rovanperä leads the points with team-mates Ogier and Elfyn Evans third and fourth respectively.

Latvala said: “We go to the Tarmac next, so at least we don’t need to think about the road positions so much because our guys are pretty much on the front which helps.”

But having started last month’s Arctic Rally Finland Powered by CapitalBox as favourites with home advantage, only to lose out to Ott Tänak’s Hyundai i20, Latvala is wary of taking pace for granted.

“It’s important to be competitive [in Croatia]. “We learned from Finland, but, of course, Croatia is a completely different rally environment. In Monte and in Monza we were strong, but we need to be careful with the testing that we do the right things,” he explained.

Latvala felt his team’s Arctic chances suffered after a mistake following pre-event testing. Toyota finalised its Yaris’ set-up after preparing in temperatures as low as -20°C, but in rally week the thermometer was closer to zero.

He added that the Croatia test would be doubly important as the first outing for Pirelli’s full range of asphalt tyres.

“The tyres have worked well so far this year,” he said. “Now for the Tarmac event, we start to drive with the Tarmac tyres and it’s a new experience for us and we have to be very, let’s say, focused on the testing to get everything out of the tyre.”