Two years ago, I asked Jari-Matti for one thing: to create a professional team with a family-like atmosphere.
The other day, for the first time, I was able to spend time with the team. During that time, I truly felt that the team, including myself, was a family. No matter what we talked about, it always ended up being about cars. I feel like we are the “most car-loving family in the world,” which is something you can’t find anywhere else.
Though the season just ended, I can’t help but look forward to another year of competing in WRC with this team.
Kalle and Jonne will be entering the season as defending champions. With that, there may be a different level of pressure. However, we have teammates who have won the championship six years in a row that can help them. Since this is only their second year fighting for the championship, we will strongly support them to have another great season.
Though Elfyn and Scott had a difficult year in 2022, we will do our utmost to support them by building a strong car for a year in which we can achieve stronger results. So let’s make it a great year together!
Seb made a great contribution to the team despite his part-season entry, and I have the same expectations for him in 2023. His contribution was not only in points but also as a leader for his young teammates. Next season, he will share the car with Takamoto, and I hope he will continue to help this team to become even stronger. Our newest addition, Vincent, will be under a lot of pressure, but I’m hopeful he will be able to contribute to the team along with Seb.
Takamoto and Aaron will be driving for the manufacturers’ championship next season. It was their driving that got us to the finish line no matter how challenging the rally was. We ask for that level of driving again in 2023 as well.
The GR Yaris was built to win in WRC, and in its first year in WRC, we were able to take home the championship. Looking ahead, 2023 will be quite the test for the GR Yaris, as it will take on its next challenge, “Rally2”.
The challenge is not only to make a winning car for us, but also to make a winning car for our customers. I asked Norihiko Katsuta to take on this challenge next year in the Japanese Rally Championship. Similar to last year when we started competing in the Japanese Rally Championship with the GR Yaris rally car, we may have some problems at first, but we will continue to refine the car and make it a “championship level car”.
Morizo is currently competing in the Rally Challenge in a GR Yaris. I hope to be able to participate again in 2023 as long as time permits. The number of GR Yaris entries in the Rally Challenge is increasing, and although there is a big difference in speed range from the top category of WRC to the grassroots rally, Rally Challenge, we hope that the GR Yaris will be “a car that any driver can enjoy driving with confidence”.
In the pursuit of “making ever-better cars”, Toyota will continue to participate in rallies in 2023.
Esapekka, and Janne, thank you for competing with us this season. Though you may be our rivals next year, we look forward to seeing you again at the podium. Please make sure you don’t roll three times!
P.S. 2 To Jari-Matti as a driver,
Although I consider it presumptuous to take on Jari-Matti, who was a WRC driver… I consider you to be my rival. So when I drive with you, I can’t help but be aware of each other’s lap times.
The first time we competed was at Fuji 24 Hours in June. I won the qualifying and you won the final, so the result was a draw.
We also spent the holiday after Rally Japan together on a dirt course. I won that time. That course was the very place where I developed the GR Yaris. This was the original “home-course” where I developed the car and Morizo himself in the early stages of development. So, I couldn’t afford to lose here.
Next time we will face off in Finland. The frozen lakes in winter are your home course, as you won in Sweden.
If you can’t beat me there either…then why don’t we go to the Japanese Rally Championship next? You couldn’t drive in Rally Japan because you were the team principal, so I would love to have you race the roads of Japan as well. Maybe around Hokkaido, where you once stood on the podium?