TORSBY, SWEDEN – There was great joy in the Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC camp this weekend, as Jari-Matti Latvala and navigator Miika Anttila secured the new team’s maiden victory by placing their Toyota Yaris WRC on the top step of Rally Sweden’s podium. This victory, in only the second round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship, also gave Latvala an early lead in the championship.
Toyota last won a WRC event in 1999, when Frenchman Didier Auriol won Rally China. The Japanese automaker withdrew from the WRC at the end of 1999, rejoining the championship in 2017 under the leadership of former champion Tommi Makkinen.
A four-times WRC champion himself, the normally reserved Fin was overjoyed at his team’s performance: “It’s very hard to find the words to describe what I am feeling right now: what we are all feeling. Monte-Carlo was an unexpected result, but this is beyond unexpected. Of course, we were lucky to have this win, but it’s also a huge tribute to the talent of Jari-Matti and the united teamwork that has taken place in Finland, Germany and Japan. It’s an incredible feeling and I just want to thank everybody who has made it possible: especially our chairman Mr Toyoda for his faith in us, Jari-Matti, Miika, Juho, and Kaj. This is a special day that we are all going to remember for a very long time, but at the same time we will keep our feet on the ground now and continue to work as hard as always.”
Latvala inherited the lead on Day 2 of the rally after early leader Thierry Neuville broke the steering of his Hyundai after an off in the day’s super special stage. Three stage wins on the final day saw Latvala home, despite starting the day with a slender lead of just 3.8 seconds over Ford’s Ott Tänak. In the end, his winning margin was just shy of 30 seconds, with Tänak finishing second, and Sebastien Ogier (Ford) in third place.
“I am so, so happy. For a new team and new car to win its second rally: I have no words. I think I drove my best power stage ever today. Huge thanks to all the team. Now we are super-motivated to continue like this: I just can’t wait to get to Mexico. It’s fantastic to win but I also feel very sorry for Thierry Neuville, who lost the lead yesterday at the super special stage. I have been in a similar situation myself in the past, so I completely understand how he must be feeling now. We know we were lucky, so we need to carry on improving and working for our goal,” said Latvala after completing the event.
The next round of the WRC is Rally México, which takes place on 8 to 12 March 2017. This year’s championship consists of twelve rounds and spans four continents.
Follow the fortunes of Toyota Gazoo Racing SA on http://www.toyota.co.za