Yamamoto and Kogure show speed on snow

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRC Challenge Program drivers Yuki Yamamoto and Hikaru Kogure both showed some promising speed on snow aboard the GR Yaris Rally2 at the Tuuri Ralli in Finland (March 8-9), with Yamamoto finishing fourth overall.

Serving as the third round of the Finnish Rally Championship, the event was new to the series and took place on roads around the village of Tuuri in Western Finland. It was the third and final event in winter conditions this year for Yamamoto and Kogure, who represent the second generation of the WRC Challenge Program, and allowed them to build on the experience they gained in their new car in the Arctic Rally and Rally Sweden in February. Seven stages would all be driven once, totalling 94.93 competitive kilometres.

The rally began with two stages in darkness on Friday night, and both drivers demonstrated strong pace from the start. Yamamoto, co-driven by Marko Salminen, was third quickest in the opening stage and then fourth fastest in the second, ending the evening only 12.2 seconds from the lead in fourth overall. Kogure and co-driver Topi Luhtinen were also fast on the early split times but were affected by a technical issue, leaving them around 50s from the lead after SS2.

Yamamoto remained in the battle for a podium place until the final loop of stages on Saturday afternoon and the longest stage of the rally, the 28.25 km SS6, where a spin dropped him around 30s from his nearest rival. Still, he reached the finish in fifth overall, and was promoted to fourth place provisionally another car was disqualified.

Kogure rebounded from his issue on Friday night to set some positive times on Saturday morning and a first outright stage win in the shorter SS5. He recovered to a top-six position overall before he overshot a junction in SS6 and then got stuck in a snowbank in the last stage, preventing him from reaching the finish.

Hikaru Kogure:

“I’m a little bit disappointed that I got stuck in the last stage, but otherwise I could have a good feeling in this rally and the speed was also there. The roads were giving quite good grip because there was a lot of ice for the studs to bite into, and our pre-event testing was quite similar, so I felt I could just continue driving with the same feeling I had in the test. The team was able to fix the issue we had on Friday and I could have a good feeling in the car from the first stage on Saturday. In the last stage I think we were a bit unlucky, as there was some water on the surface and we got sucked into the snowbank and couldn’t get out. I’ve really enjoyed driving a four-wheel drive car on snow during these first three rallies and I can see a lot of improvement compared to last year in these conditions, but still I have some work to do.”

Yuki Yamamoto:
“Overall I think this has been a really positive rally for me. The start on Friday was very good: I think that was my best driving so far. The grip was really high, similar to our pre-event test, and it was very enjoyable. I tried to keep the same rhythm on Saturday morning but it didn’t go so easily – the conditions were a bit softer and the stage character was also different. But it wasn’t a disaster at all and it was getting better all the time. I just made a couple of mistakes: with the spin, I think the pacenote and my driving was a little optimistic, so I was too fast into a left-hand corner and couldn’t make the next right-hander. But otherwise I think the pacenotes were working really well, and my feeling was much better than in the previous rallies. I’ve built up my confidence in the car a lot, but of course there’s still a lot to improve.”

Juho Hänninen (TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRC Challenge Program instructor):
“It has generally been another positive event. The conditions were really nice and a lot more straightforward than at Rally Sweden, and both drivers were confident and feeling good with the car and their driving after our pre-event test. Yuki made a really good start on Friday night, and Hikaru could also have been quick without his issue. On Saturday, I would say they were still driving pretty well, there was just a small mistake for both of them in the long stage and then Hikaru getting stuck in the last one which was unfortunate. But at least Yuki could reach the finish with a good overall position. Now the winter season is complete and both guys are gradually building up their confidence and getting to know the new car. The next rallies will be completely new for them with a lot of things to learn, so the main thing is just to be patient and keep working.”


  • 1 Roope Korhonen/Anssi Viinikka (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2)48m24.2s
  • 2 Niclas Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2)+42.0s
  • 3 Benjamin Korhola/Sebastian Virtanen (Hyundai i20 N Rally2)+45.6s
  • 4 Yuki Yamamoto/Marko Salminen (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2)+1m22.4s
  • 5 Anssi Rytkönen/Mikael Korhonen (Škoda Fabia R5)+2m08.4s
  • 6 Kristian Nieminen/Valtteri Nieminen (Škoda Fabia R5)+2m56.8s
  • Retired Hikaru Kogure/Topi Luhtinen (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2)