For the last two years Toyota has had problems with engine over heating in the hot and high altitude conditions in rally Mexico. Team had been working really hard and those issues were beaten.
I was too cautious in the beginning of the rally when El Chocolate stage road felt really slippery and the rear of the car was moving a lot. Because of the small loss in the beginning I started to push more and that payed off in form of better driving mood.
I was climbed to the fourth place when the alternator broke in the exactly same place as last year. The car wasn’t charging at all and there were two super special stages and liaisons ahead before the service. You are not able to drive more than 30 minutes without charging with these modern rally cars.
We continued the rally under Rally-2 regulation and we tried to score some points despite our 14 minutes time penalty. I was the fastest car during the saturday, but I got more time penalty because I dropped my starting position behind rally leader Sebastien Ogier. We also made some service in forbidden area and we were late from the start of the stage that’s why we got more time penalty.
In the sunday morning we were at the eight place and we tried to reach seventh place. Then the bottom of the car hit quite heavily and that broke the cooler. We need to fix the cooler with Miikka. My role was the get some liquid for the cooling system. I found some water from 500 meters away from the car (100 m lower level) from the bottom of the dried river. We managed to fix cooler but also got 40 second time penalty because of being late from the start. Were didn’t have enough time to tighten al the bolts of the bumber and we lost it . That’s why were weren’t able score any points from the Power stage, we scored 4 points from the 8th place.
Sebastien Ogier won the rally, Ott Tänak was second and Elfyn Evans third.
Before the Rally Sweden we got free weekend and I decided to participate Peurunka Historic Rally with Asko Sairanen with our Toyota Celica.
There were lots of snow but the weather was relatively warm and that slushed the roads and car made quite bad ruts. Rally was mainly following the ruts for us but that suited well for Celica.
We didn’t have any concerns and we were able to enjoy the old Neste Rally stages like Lankamaa, Valkola and Laukaa.
We won the event, but the main thing was to enjoy, even there were ruts.
From last year’s mistakes about car’s setup were observed. Car felt really fast in the shakedown, and we were fastest in the first pass.
The rally started well I was right behind the leading guys. Conditions at the morning stages were icy and big snow banks guaranteed enjoyable rallying. For the evening loop conditions changed as opposite, slushy, gravel ruts and slushy snow banks.
At the afternoon of friday I was even leading the rally, but at the last stage of the day I really messed up. I assumed that Torsby-stage will be on gravel because of warn temperature but ruts were filled with slush and I tried to push too hard in that conditions. I braked too late and rear of the car hit the bank which sucked the front also to the ditch and there too few spectators. We pushed the car back to the road for more than ten minutes, despite that we reached the end of the stage, rally was ruined for us.
For the two last days I focused on setting good stage times, we managed with that during the morning loops but for the afternoon it was really tough to be second car on the road after Marcus Grönholm. We hit the bank also for the second time and again we need the help of spectators.
I tried to reach extra points from the Power stage, but I was too cautious in the same section were we had gone of on friday and that ruined our possibilities.
We scored zero points and we need to turn our thoughts towards Mexico. Ott Tänak won, Esapekki Lappi was second and Thierry Neuville third.
Third time in “Monte” with Toyota Yaris WRC and 12th as a whole. The last season had ended with really nice feelings in Rally Australia. Nevertheless we were not able to take that success straight to the Rallye Monte Carlo.
In pre-event tests we got quite bad crash and that is why the test kilometres were cutted and none of them on a wet or slushy conditions.
As a tradition rally started in thursday evening with two special stages in the dark. Roads were mixed conditions with ice and dry tarmac. Inexperience in mixed conditions showed up immediately, and I was far behind the top times after two stages.
During the next days driving was improved and I was at my best in the snowy stages. For me and setup of the car didn’t suit for mixed conditions and dry tarmac. In some places I was quite nearby the third place, but I wasn’t able to fight for that. At the end of the rally I was fighting for the fourth place against Sebastien Loeb. Sebastien got a bit more speed at the end I lost the fourth place by one second marginal. The result was disapointment, but you need to think positively. It was a clean rally for us.
Sebastien Ogier won, Thierry Neuville was second and Ott Tänak third.
For the last 15 years both manufacturers and drivers WRC title hasn’t been open before the last event. Sebastien Ogier, Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak were fighting for the drivers title and Toyota and Hyundai for the manufacturers title. The situation meant that Toyota need to have two cars in top five for sealing the manufacturers title. And for Ott Tänak he need to win the rally and other drivers need to have unfortunate for the title.
Motivation was high to help our team to win the manufacturers WRC title and try to compensate last years retirement three kilometres before the end of the rally by my own mistake.
Two first days we drove in the dry conditions and we were very competitive and had no issues. Everything seems to be allright because we were on the position one and two after saturday. I was even leading the rally in saturday morning but in the afternoon I drove too aggressively and my tyres were worn too much. With those worn tyres I wasn’t drive my best speed and in the super special stage there were wet conditions but we managed to go through the day.
It started to rain in sunday morning and roads were extremely slippery and that suits for me. In the tricky conditions we were able to make gap, nevertheless it wasn’t easy. Both Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak had to retire in the last day because off accident. That meant that Sebastien Ogier was able to confirm WRC title with the careful driving.
Sunday was the great success for me, I kept car on the road with my controlled driving. It meant victory for us and at the same time it confirmed manufacturers title for Toyota Gazoo Racing. I had already gave up the idea of winning the event in season 2018 but luckily we managed with it. Hayden Paddon was second and Mads Östberg was third.
It was really interesting event coming because both manufacturers and drivers WRC titles were open and top of that Sebastien Loeb was participating. Gravel stages were traditional but quite many of them reversed compared to the earlier years.
The car felt really nice from the start of the rally and feeling was really nice. We were in the really good pace, but on the stage 4 La Fatarella I hit the loose rock that caused a puncture to the left rear tyre. I drove more than 10 kilometre with the broken tyre and that broke the side of the car and I were really pissed off. I haven’t been so angry at the end of stage for a while, but there was fastest time coming in that stage without that puncture, but now I lost 40 seconds. I got some power from that anger and we had really nice speed during the rest of the day. At the evening I had climbed up to the fifth place from place 10.
The second day of the rally started in wet tarmac and cars were changed to the tarmac setup. Because it was so wet I choose the wet condition tyres and those were working really nicely. I drove with wet condition tyres for all day and because of the puncture for Ott Tänak I was leading the rally after two days. I had made right tyre choises and driving had been really smooth and relaxed.
In the sunday morning weather was quite cold but roads were drying because of the wind. Sebastien Loeb took a risk with hard tyre compound and he beat all the other top drivers who had choose the soft compound. Before the last stage of the rally I was 7,1 seconds of the Loebs lead and I decided to fight for the victory. Hard attack didn’t pay off and I hit the railing post and that disabled steering. I drove carefully to the end and we dropped to the eight place.
Sebastien Loeb did the magnificent performance and won the WRC event after five years. Ogier was second and Elfyn Evans was third.