11 November 2017
STUMPED: TOYOTA RALLY DRIVERS TRY THEIR HAND AT CRICKET
**Toyota rally team samples Australian sport, fauna and food**
**Nathan Lyon bamboozles Finland's best with his spin**
**Cricket is scarier than driving at 200km/h, says Latvala**
Toyota's Finland-based world rally team has acclimatised to Australian conditions by coming face to face with first-class cricket, native wildlife and local "delicacies" including Vegemite.
The Toyota GAZOO Racing World Rally Team spent a short time immersing themselves in the "down under" culture as part of their preparations for Rally Australia in Coffs Harbour.
Rally Australia is the last event of the 2017 World Rally Championship season, which has seen Toyota return to the premier rallying category for the first time since 1999.
The team swapped details of their professional sporting experience with leading NSW and Australian test players. They also visited Sydney's Taronga Zoo to see unique local fauna and enjoyed a typical Aussie barbeque.
Australia's most successful off-spin test bowler Nathan Lyon and pacemen Pat Cummins and Josh Hazelwood introduced the rally drivers and their co-drivers to the finer points of batting, bowling and fielding during a session at the Cricket NSW training nets.
It was a light-hearted session ahead of serious challenges with the cricketers about to challenge England for the Ashes and rally drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi sharing details of their own high-speed challenges.
Lyon said it was enjoyable to learn about the similarities between the two professional sports, such as fitness and commitment, and to pass on some tips to the drivers.
"They did really well for their first time at cricket," Lyon said. "I can imagine what it would be like if we were trying to drive a rally car - we probably wouldn't get past the first corner."
Latvala said he and co-driver Miikka Anttila, both wearing full protective gear including helmets, had the utmost respect for the skills and bravery of cricketers after facing deliveries from some of Australia's wiliest test bowlers.
"When you have a cricket ball coming towards you at 140 km/h, it's scarier than driving at 200 km/h between trees!" Latvala said.
"It's amazing how fast that ball is coming at you, so you need to react quickly - and that's exactly what you have to do in rallying," he said.
"Also, when you have a game that can last for five days, you have to concentrate and you need a never-give-up attitude. That's another similarity with rallying because our events typically last three or four days at a time."
At the zoo, team members were introduced to an echidna, platypus, feather-tail glider, wombat, possum, wallaby and Australian coat-of-arms shield-bearers, the kangaroo and emu.
Lappi and his co-driver Janne Ferm agreed that seeing and learning about native fauna was a valuable experience for the team.
"Everybody in the world wants to see the amazing Australian wildlife - it's very special for us to meet these unique animals that we don't have in Europe, although I'm not crazy about your snakes," Lappi said.
The team's familiarisation with Australian conditions ended with a barbeque and the opportunity to sample meat pies and sauce, lamingtons, Anzac biscuits, pavlovas and, naturally, the reclaimed Aussie favourite, Vegemite.
None of the Toyota GAZOO Racing World Rally Team drivers balked at the Vegemite on toast samples, with a diplomatic Latvala describing the taste as "quite unusual, rather salty".
Perhaps not surprisingly, none of them queued for a second slice.
The Toyota team will be available for media at its hospitality area in the Coffs Harbour service park on Wednesday from 18.30 to 19.15 AEDT. Rally Australia has its ceremonial start on Thursday before the action gets under way in earnest on Friday.
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L-R, rally team Janne Ferm, Esapekka Lappi, Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttilla with cricketers Josh Hazelwood, Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins.
Toyota rally driver Jari-Matti Latvala gets familiar with Australia.
Toyota rally driver Esapekka Lappi comes to grips with cricket.
Rally team with sporting director Kaj Lindström (left)
Jari-Matti Latvala punishing a loose delivery
Miikka Anttilla shows form with the bat
Janne Ferm munching an Aussie meat pie
The team meets an echidna
Esapekka Lappi samples Vegemite on toast
Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT drivers try their hand at cricket
Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT drivers sample Australian food
Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT drivers get up close with local animals
Rally Cricket B-Roll
Rally Food B-Roll
Rally Zoo B-Roll
Interview Esapekka Lappi
Interview Jari-Matti Latvala
Interview Nathan Lyon