RSM goes exclusively in-depth with Tommi Makinen to talk about Yaris WRC developments, new hybrid models for 2022, driver news for 2020, and the new Toyota R5 car.
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Toyota Gazoo Racing's rallying director, Tommi Makinen, gave RallySport Magazine some insights into the current work and aspirations of his team.
This comes as the team are recovering after several earlier disappointments in the season, not the least Tanak's last stage catastrophe while leading in Sardinia.
This interview was made on the eve of the dramatic efforts in Neste Rally Finland, which ended with a win for Ott Tanak.
Martin Holmes: Notwithstanding various disappointments, did you think development of the Yaris WRC is going in the right direction?Tommi Makinen: I would say that we have done very constant development work, not because there are problems anywhere. We have just analysed after all the different conditions what we need to improve and we have done that.
And it’s been, I would say, the best team work that I have seen, based on the drivers’ information and comments from a group of interns working together with their experience and ideas.
It’s been very constant since we started building the car in 2016.
Already we did quite a massive amount of testing with it here in Finland and that's why it is now pretty much at this time as required for Neste Rally.
We still have more challenging work to do for rough conditions. We have been concentrating more on rough conditions as we know that we need to work on that area.
Jari-Matti Latvala finished a strong third in Rally Finland.
MH: What has been the weak point for gravel, for rough roads?TM: I would say it’s a bit of a question of making the car perform well in circumstances when we have to raise the ride height, because I would say the design has been made for the car to run best when it is set up a little bit lower always.
I think we are starting to be better already in that area.
MH: What have been the most important improvements made to the car?TM: Of course it is small things here and there. It is the powertrain package working together with the suspension and geometry, these small items.
But finally the performance is coming from the aerodynamics, which once you homologate the design you cannot change a lot.
You always need jokers and the number of available jokers are limited. I would say most of the work we have done with the transmission and suspension.
Ott Tanak is the WRC's hottest driver and is now odds-on to win the 2019 World Rally Championship.
MH: What will be the next improvement?TM: All the time we are looking at something new to improve.
We have done some test with the new dampers, a completely new damper which is lighter, but that is one area which takes always time, we have to be sure that it’s really working until we go for that change.
It will be from the same supplier, but a new design.
MH: What is the life expectancy of the Yaris WRC, how long will you be rallying this car - right until the new formula in 2020?TM: We know that in 2022 we will have new (hybrid) systems and there are quite a lot more new rules as well, like the opportunity to have bigger base cars, but reduced in size. I don't know very much about that.
Of course it’s clear that in '22 we will have completely new cars, anyway. Will we still be using the same current design? Maybe. We'll see!
For 2022 we are waiting until the regulation is finally decided, but we have done already some preparation based on as much as we know.
What we are doing in 2021 – that is the question, but there shouldn't be any major changes.
Ott Tanak is hot property ahead of the 2020 driver market silly season.
MH: And in relation to 2020, when do you expect to decide your drivers?TM: At the moment we are negotiating with Ott Tanak, of course, his future, and when we sort it out we will look at the rest of the team and what we do.
But I think now is the moment to start thinking about that more seriously.
MH: What is happening with a new Toyota R5?TM: We have done quite a lot, we have studied a lot and done already some very, very careful preparation to be ready to start the project.
I would say that soon we should make a decision, either we go for R5 or not.
MH: Last time I asked you about this, you said that the engine you would want to use in R5 is not yet in production. Are you (still?) waiting for that to be into production?TM: Yes, it should start soon, no question, and regulation-wise it should be okay also.
All these areas have been sorted.
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