Valtteri Bottas has revealed he was able to match World Rally Championship event winner Kris Meeke’s pace by the end of his try-out in a Toyota Yaris WRC car last month.

Mercedes Formula 1 driver Bottas entered his first rally event over the winter before getting the opportunity to test Toyota’s WRC car in Finland between the British and German Grands Prix.

F1 drivers are usually off-limits from doing potentially dangerous activities outside of their regular racing commitments, but Bottas said there were no concerns from Mercedes about him doing the test.

“For that particular test, there was no permission needed, because I asked a long time ago if it was OK if I did some testing and they said it was,” Bottas said.

“It’s fun, and I do it because I feel it’s good for me. I always learn something more about driving. The more different cars you can drive, the more different surfaces you try, it’s always going to be a benefit.

“It’s super-fun, that’s the main reason I do it, but there are also benefits. That’s the thinking behind it. I had never driven a proper car in gravel before, so it was a new experience, and it went all very well.”

Asked about Toyota’s feedback from the test, Bottas revealed he had been able to match five-time rally winner Meeke’s time on the same stage.

“I think they were happy. By the end of the day I managed to be on the same pace as Kris Meeke, who had been sometime earlier on that same stage,” Bottas said.

“That was quite encouraging for a first day in gravel.”

Bottas explained that it was hard to compare his experience rallying to his regular F1 commitments given the lack of pressure, knowing he was not competing against anyone.

“It's completely different,” Bottas said. “New experiences always feel amazing. Obviously I would imagine if you do rally all the time, for sure you kind of get used to it. When you try something else, it feels very cool and new.

“This kind of [rally] thing, you go there and have fun with no people around, not a single kind of pressure from outside or from yourself.”

 

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