The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team is ready to take on a fourth different challenge in as many events when the Rally de Portugal hosts the first gravel round of the 2021 season on May 20-23.
Following a one-two finish on the last event in Croatia, Toyota leads the manufacturers’ championship as well as the drivers’ standings, where Sébastien Ogier holds first place after two victories in the first three rallies of the season. Elfyn Evans is third, 10 points behind his team-mate, and Kalle Rovanperä fifth, within 22 points of the lead. Once again, Takamoto Katsuta will be behind the wheel of a fourth Yaris WRC in Portugal as part of the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRC Challenge Program, looking to build on three consecutive top-six finishes.
The team continues to develop the Toyota Yaris WRC during its fifth season of competition and, after an update to the car’s aerodynamic package debuted in Croatia, a new engine will be introduced in Portugal with improvements in power and reliability.
After events on ice, snow and asphalt so far this season, Portugal marks the first in a run of consecutive events on gravel. Returning to the calendar after the 2020 edition was cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic, the rally is based in Matosinhos on the edge of the country’s second largest city Porto, and is characterised by fast but technical roads. The surface is usually soft and sandy at first, offering up limited grip for those opening the road, but can often become rocky and rutted for the second pass.
The rally route is similar to the last running in 2019, beginning with the ceremonial start in the city of Coimbra on Thursday evening. Friday features a loop of three stages in the nearby Arganil area which must be run twice without a mid-day service. Before returning north for the day-closing Lousada superspecial, there is a return to Mortágua for the first time in 20 years. Saturday is concentrated on the Cabreira mountains to the north-east of Porto for a loop of three stages run either side of service, before a new street test alongside the mouth of the Douro river rounds out the day. A total of five stages complete the rally on Sunday, including two passes of the returning Felguieras test and the famous Fafe, which hosts the Power Stage.