Like his former team-mate Sebastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala is facing a whole new team for 2017 after Volkswagen Motorsport withdrew from the FIA World Rally Championship at the end of the 2016 season.
Latvala secured a drive with the returning TOYOTA GAZOO Racing squad in their all new Yaris and has managed to get in a good amount of testing with the team.
“I managed to do 10 or 12 days of testing, so it was quite a change. When Volkswagen stopped, for one month I didn’t know what to do.” admitted Latvala. “I was even thinking of doing the Finnish Championship to keep the rhythm! I was very happy to get the Toyota seat and the feeling has been getting better and better the more testing I’ve been doing.”
“I didn’t want to miss a year. It’s not easy to come back, so I really tried to push to be in the championship. There were chances to be a privateer, but when you are driving for a manufacturer, you always have the support to develop the car – especially when we have a president like Akio Toyoda. He has been supporting [the programme] for a long time.
Asked about the potential of the new car and how soon it could win, Latvala was cautious with his answer, “The car has been running less than one year. The first test was March or April and that’s a very short period. When Volkswagen came the test period was a lot longer.
“This year for me is more to work on the car and make it faster and faster – at the end of the year, we could fight for the podiums or victories. But the first six months is to work with the car. The target is more 2018, now we work to get it on the level with the other cars.
“It was tricky in shakedown, but I feel more confident with the car now.” he added.