Ott Tänak should win the WRC drivers' title this weekend in Spain, team boss Tommi Mäkinen told ERR on Thursday.
Tänak is on 240 points, 28 points ahead of reigning champion Sébastien Ogier (Citroen) and 41 points ahead of third-placer, Belgian Thierry Neuville (Hyundai), coming into the penultimate round of the season, the RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España based at Salou, 100 km from Barcelona.
Tänak's co-driver, Estonian Martin Järveoja, also tops the co-drivers' table, by the same margin of points.
Tänak remained cautious about his chances of clinching his first ever WRC title this weekend, however, rather than in the final race of the season in Australia in November.
"I don't think it makes sense to risk everything to win it here," Tänak told ERR's sports portal Wednesday.
"The season ends in Australia, not here [in Turkey]. The main goal is to win the title by the end of the year. Whether that comes here or in Australia doesn't matter in itself," he added.
Toyota Gazoo Racing boss and Finnish rally legend Tommi Mäkinen, who himself won the WRC title in 1997 at the very venue where this weekend's rally takes place, was more unequivocal, talking to ERR Thursday after an initial test run topped by four Toyota drivers, including Tänak in fourth place, as the team has its sights on the team championship as well.
Toyota Gazoo Racing currently lies 8 points behind table-toppers Hyundai.
"I understand this situation with Ott where the pressure is rising...we are trying to keep this pressure as low as possible to try to keep the whole team relaxed and with a good feeling, as this affects the driver as well," Mäkinen told ERR (see video link below) in Spain.
"It can affect your own performance if the pressure is too high, as I know from my own experience," he continued.
"I'm very confident we will, yes. I know it's difficult; if I remember my own career when there's a lot of pressure you start taking things a bit steadier, which affects your times, then you think you need to start going faster, so you take more risks, which can cause some little mistakes – but such tiny things can easily happen, as it's very mental," Mäkinen continued.
The first stage proper for RallyRACC Catalunya starts Friday morning on a challenging circuit which contains a unique blend of gravel and fast-paced ashphalt, taxing team crews to the limit.
ERR's sports portal is liveblogging the race (in Estonian) here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte