Rally

Toyota plays down rumours about Alonso making WRC debut in Spain

Toyota has played down speculation that ex-Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso could make his World Rally Championship debut on Rally Spain later this year.

Despite social media speculation in the last week, it has been suggested that a fourth Toyota Yaris WRC at Rally Spain will be used by Takamoto Katsuta rather than Alonso.

The Salou event was always set to be part of the Toyota junior driver’s scheduled and the team’s sporting director Kaj Lindstrom says that has not changed – although Katsuta could compete in Rally Germany or Rally GB before Spain.

Alonso is not the first famous F1 name to be linked to the team, with rumours that Kimi Raikkonen would drive for Toyota last year remaining so far unfulfilled.

Lindstrom told Autosport: “I think [the Alonso story] is just another strong rumour like the one we had before with Kimi.

“We have options for Takamoto for a few events except Turkey, which is quite tricky logistically.

“But if we use the fourth car in Spain, I think it’s going to be for him and not Alonso.”

Katsuta has won both of his non-WRC development events in Finland so far in 2019 and has also been linked to a possible Ypres Rally Masters outing at the end of this month.

Hanninen returns for Toyota

Juho Hanninen will return to the WRC for the first time in almost two years at this week’s Rally Italy – with an eye on helping Toyota’s future performance.

The Finn is driving a Yaris run by Tommi Makinen Racing rather than the Toyota Gazoo Racing team, although the WRC car will be serviced alongside the three factory cars.

Hanninen, who drove every event for Toyota in 2017 except for the Australian finale, told Autosport: “We have a test area in Finland, but basically you can only do anything for Finland or Sweden there.

“We talked a little bit about this idea for me to do an event and Sardinia would be good, it’s really nice that we could do this.

“It’s not the first or the last time this will happen when the test days are quite limited.

“It’s really difficult [with] just one test day for each driver, it’s difficult to do some stuff for the future and some development bits on hot rallies like this one.”

When asked what his expectations were from Sardinia – he finished sixth last time he was there in 2017 (above) – he replied: “Let’s see. I have to think about a sensible drive.

“Not so many drivers have the chance to drive a current World Rally Car without having any pressure for the result. If I take it this way then I believe it will be fine.”

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