MERCEDES Formula 1 star Valtteri Bottas has tested a Toyota Yaris WRC car – but the team says it was just for fun.
PHOTO: Valtteri Bottas at the wheel of the Toyota Yaris WRC at last Friday’s test in Finland (Toyota pic)
WRC squad Toyota Gazoo Racing revealed on social media the test was run last Friday at its regular test site near Jyväskylä, which will host round nine of the FIA World Rally Championship, Neste Rally Finland, early next month.
Toyota’s regular drivers Ott Tanak, Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala had completed their pre-Finland testing with the car earlier.
Bottas drove the Yaris with two-time world champion co-driver Timo Rautiainen calling pace notes. The pair had driven before when Bottas made his rally debut in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC at the Arctic Lapland Rally in January.
PHOTO: Valtteri Bottas (right) with Toyota team boss Tommi Mäkinen (centre) and co-driver Timo Rautiainen during last Friday’s test in Finland (Toyota pic)
Toyota Gazoo Racing sporting director Kaj Lindstrom said the 29-year-old Finn’s outing in the Yaris was just for fun.
“There is no contract. He was happy in the Arctic Rally, but we have the best car and he wanted to try it,” Lindstrom told Autosport.com.
“The test with Valtteri was planned and he just drove the test car after the other guys at a road close to Jyväskylä.”
Bottas is the latest in a long line of F1 drivers to challenge their skills in a rally car.
Fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen quit Ferrari after 2009 to spend two seasons driving a privateer WRC Citroën, before returning to F1. Robert Kubica spent 2013-16 driving mostly a Fiesta and finished ninth in his only Rally Australia appearance in 2014. He also has returned to grand prix racing.
Ayrton Senna, Jim Clark, Martin Brundle, Mika Hakkinen, Alain Prost and Mika Salo are among others who have driven a rally car, while Fernando Alonso was rumoured to be in line for a Toyota drive in Spain next October.