Four times World Rally Driver champion, Tommi Makinen, gained a fifth title when his Toyota Gazoo Racing team gained the World Manufacturers’ Champion in 2018.
Martin Holmes spoke to Makinen about his team's future plans, including hybrid technology.
Tommi Makinen says his drivers will have equal machinery in 2019. Photo: Martin Holmes
What is the ongoing plan with Toyota Gazoo Racing, and how long will the current Yaris be your team's WRC rally car?
“We have a plan to the end of the regulations (to the end of 2021). At the moment that is our future which we are looking for and to see what the new regulation and what new regulation is bringing.
"And of course I would like to see very much that new regulation will give manufacturers an interest to be in rallying, to improve the number of people interested and improve the number of followers. That's of course we would like to see."
To what extent is Toyota committed to encouraging new technology, which means hybrids and similar systems?
“From Toyota's point of view, ‘hybrid’ is not such a key word because all over the world people already associate hybrid with Toyota. They have been building hybrid cars for over 20 years.
"So many hybrid cars are already available all over the world. Of course Toyota is the company who really wants to follow and who really wants to bring the highest technology with them.
"I am not sure that hybrid involvement in rallying is their absolute priority, but surely they would like to follow and bring it as part of the rallying.”
Kris Meeke testing the Yaris WRC ahead of the Monte Carlo Rally.
For the remaining three seasons (2019-2021) left to run in the current regulations, what developments are you planning with Yaris?
“We are of course making careful plans what we are doing. We have a number of available homologation jokers for engine and the chassis.
"For 2019 there is again three jokers, but for 2020 we have five jokers which gives us more possibilities to bring in some new items.
"Our target is of course to try to use all of them and to try to keep improving as much as we can do regulation-wise.”
Is there an area in the current Yaris WRC model you particularly want to improve?
“One concerns the weight of the car. We know that we would like to diet our car a bit, so we can then put ballast in the optimum places using weight management to get better and better performance. There is always some weak point!”
Ott Tanak was the star of the show for Toyota in 2018.
Last year you told me a good reason for having Kris Meeke in the team was because of his experience in developing rally cars. What is going to be the order of the priority between your drivers Ott Tanak, Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris this year?
”Our target in unchanged. We give all of them identical cars and we let them to do their work as well, supporting them in equal ways.
"Of course we will need to look at the end of season if there is some strategy needed, which we will discuss with them. Till then we support all our drivers equally and give maximum support for all of them.”
What is the time schedule for R5?
“We have now started discussing that. I think we will go forward with an R5 project, but there is no timetable set yet. Of course when we do that we want to make it properly and our target is to make it one of the R5s which is able to keep fighting to win the rallies.”
Will your operation stay in Puuppola or will it gradually move to Estonia?
“Our R&D work will stay all the time in Puuppola, near Jyvaskyla, and leave just our rally car operation service, rebuild and rally operations is in Estonia, where we have smoother logistics as we do not need to rely so much on ferries to cross the Baltic Sea.”
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