Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC team principal Tommi Makinen admits he isn't sure how the returning manufacturer will fare in its comeback Monte Carlo Rally event relative to its World Rally Championship rivals.
The Japanese manufacturer makes its much anticipated return to the international rallying stage this year with the Yaris WRC following a painstaking development process that began back in 2015.
Charging ex-VW driver Jari-Matti Latvala and fellow Finn Juho Hanninen to lead its two-car effort on the Monte Carlo opener for what will be its first factory WRC bid since 1999, rallying legend Makinen says it is impossible to say if it has a competitive package until it goes up against its rivals directly.
“The most important thing is to go to Monte-Carlo with a relaxed and open attitude. It depends so much on the conditions there and everything can change in a split second. It's hard for me to say at the moment where we really are in terms of performance and it's unlikely that Monte-Carlo will give us any definite answers either, as it is such a different rally to everywhere else.
A legend of his discipline, Makinen became the most successful rally driver of all time when he clinched four consecutive titles between 1996 and 1999 with Mitsubishi, though this feat has since been surpassed by Sebastien Loeb and matched by Sebastien Ogier, who moves from VW to Ford for 2017.
Calling upon his own Monte Carlo experiences, where he was a four-time winner during his career, Makinen admits he would simply be satisfied to see both cars reach the finish and – if possible – within a minute of the winner.
“I can pass on a little bit of my personal experience to our drivers from Monte-Carlo, but in the end it's all down to them and the car now. Our target is to get good mileage from this rally, so I will be happy if we have both cars at the finish and arrive in the same minute as the leaders.
“That would be a fantastic way to continue our development, which is always an ongoing process. As we say in Toyota, we should keep continuous improvement: we just keep on making the car ever-better!”