But this year, I hardly noticed it was coming. Everybody at Toyota Gazoo Racing is busy getting ready for Monte Carlo Rally next year, when we will be competing with the Yaris WRC for the first time, so the rally world coming to Finland was a nice chance to catch up with friends and our future rivals.
It is a big honour for me to be leading Toyota’s return to the World Rally Championship. Toyota is really one of our sport’s giants. We can all remember the incredible times when Ove Andersson was making cars for guys like Juha Kankkunen and Carlos Sainz.
In 1990, I finished 1,000 Lakes for the first time and I won Group N driving a Mitsubishi Galant. Carlos won the event overall driving a Celica. I remember looking at the car and at the whole Toyota team and thinking how incredible to work with a manufacturer like that.
And now I am in this position to be bringing Toyota back. Fantastic.
For sure, people are asking me a lot about the challenge of running the team compared with driving. They are totally different jobs. When you are the driver, you are very focused on what you are doing, nothing else so much – just yourself and your own rally. Now I am looking at everything: testing, car build, regulations, everything.
We have been testing the Yaris for a long time now and we completed around 6,000km (3,600 miles) with three different cars running at the same time in different places in the world. I did some of the driving myself and I must admit, the car feels really excellent. The speed is more than I remember when I was competing, but the biggest change is in the suspension. Now we can fly forever, the car lands and keeps going. Before, if we fly like this, for sure we are going to the trees a little bit.