Jari-Matti Latvala has played down Toyota's chances of reaching the WRC rostrum until at least halfway through its maiden campaign back in the sport and rules out any specific targets for Rally Monte Carlo.
The former Volkswagen Motorsport driver has found himself in the surprising position as lead driver for Toyota for 2017 after the German manufacturer withdrew from WRC and left him without a drive.
Having secured a late deal with Toyota, Latvala is still getting to grips with the all-new Yaris WRC machine with just 12 days of testing under his belt.
Despite the preparation deficit against many of his rivals, Latvala is approaching the new season – along with the revamped regulations – with measured optimism but has ruled out any instant success for the Japanese manufacturer.
“Two months ago, I would never have imagined that I would be starting Rallye Monte Carlo with Toyota, so that's really exciting,” Latvala said. “In total I've done 12 days of testing: four days on snow, one day on gravel, and seven days on asphalt. That's a good amount of testing and we've made some useful steps in that time.
“The car feels very strong but in terms of performance it's difficult to say, as everyone comes with a new car. In any case this year is all about development: For Monte I would like to finish the rally well, then maybe towards the middle of the season we can start to think about podiums.”
The three-time WRC runner-up has a chequered history at Rally Monte Carlo with the highlight of second place in 2015 contrasted by three DNFs (2016, 2013 and 2012).
“Monte Carlo is so unpredictable that it's not a good idea to set too many targets: in 2015 I didn't have a particular plan and I finished second, so in 2016 I was aiming for the podium and then I ended up making a mistake.
“When you cross the finish ramp in front of the Royal Palace on Sunday, it is one of the best feelings you will ever experience in the sport.”