TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team continues to lead the manufacturers’ standings after round two of the FIA World Rally Championship season at Rally Sweden, despite narrowly missing out on a podium finish following a closely-fought weekend on snow and ice.
Kalle Rovanperä finished in fourth position, just 5.1 seconds from third, after fighting hard until the very last stage. Warmer conditions meant that last year’s Rally Sweden winner was at a greater disadvantage this time running first on the road on Friday, but he fought back well to begin the final day only 3.8s away from a podium position. That gap was further reduced to 1.1s thanks to a stage win in Sunday’s opening test, but rival Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) responded on the next stage and managed to hold on to the place.
With an extra three bonus points for the third-fastest time on the rally-ending Power Stage, Rovanperä remains second in the drivers’ championship, only three points behind leader Ott Tänak (M-Sport Ford).
Elfyn Evans finished one position behind Rovanperä in fifth overall, after working during the rally to improve his feeling with the car in the tricky conditions. This culminated in the second-best time in the Power Stage, just 0.6 seconds from the fastest time and 0.015s quicker than Rovanperä, which keeps him fourth in the championship.
The extra points from the Power Stage mean that TGR-WRT remains in the lead of the manufacturers’ championship by 14 points.
Rally Sweden was the debut for Takamoto Katsuta as part of the team’s three-car manufacturer line-up and the Japanese driver performed impressively on Friday morning when he was involved in the lead fight and won a stage.
Having been caught out in the afternoon by the snowbanks that line the stages and rolling his car, Katsuta restarted on Saturday and gained valuable new experience opening the road on snow. No longer in contention for a points finish, his car was retired prior to Sunday’s final stage after he had reported an issue in the previous test.
There was another first for TGR-WRT this weekend with Lorenzo Bertelli becoming the first customer driver to compete behind the wheel of the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID. The Italian, always a popular and enthusiastic presence during his occasional WRC appearances, enjoyed the experience of driving the car on one of his favourite rallies, completing every stage and reaching the finish in 14th place.
Akio Toyoda (TGR-WRT Chairman)
“When Toyota came back to WRC in 2017, it was at Rally Sweden that Jari-Matti brought the first victory to TGR. Since then, TGR was able to win in Sweden with Ott in 2019, Elfyn in 2020 and Kalle in 2022. Snow stages are a kind of home road for TGR-WRT which is based in Finland, and all the crews gave their best this weekend to achieve the best result on our specialty surface. Unfortunately, it did not lead to the result we hoped for this time, but their challenges surely made our car and the team stronger.
I heard that the damage to Takamoto’s car after his accident was the heaviest so far, but the mechanics fixed it within the limited time and Takamoto and Aaron were able to restart the next day. The accident itself was unfortunate but I believe the team became even stronger after that. I’m really thankful to everybody who worked on his car.
It seems that Elfyn is feeling he is missing the last piece. I feel like I’m seeing Jari-Matti in 2019. Everybody in the team will keep working together for him to find the last piece that he has been looking for. We’ll do our ever-better car making for Elfyn.
For Kalle, I’m sure he is not feeling any pressure as a defending champion and I hope he will enjoy driving again on the next round in Mexico.
Rally Mexico in one month from now will be a hot rally which is completely different from this one. I trust the team that they will continue working hard to make our cars even more comfortable, reliable and fun to drive for our drivers.
P.S. to Ott
Congratulations on your first victory in the new team!”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“This was certainly a rally that we were hoping to get something more from, given that it has usually been a strong event for us in the past. We suffered a bit on the first day when the conditions were not ideal for our road positions and those starting further back were able to attack and build a gap. We tried to fight back and speed-wise I think we saw some positive signs but things just didn’t quite click for us in the end. We have seen a great fight here between all of the teams and it’s clear that the competition is going to be very close this year, just like we expected. With the results from the Power Stage we have still scored some good points: we maintain the lead of the manufacturers’ championship and Kalle stays close to the lead of the drivers’ standings without having to open the road in Mexico.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“It has been quite a difficult weekend but at the end we can be fairly happy. On Friday opening the road we lost over 30s just in one tricky stage that we drove twice, and we are 25s behind at the finish so we did quite a good rally in the circumstances. This morning in the first stage we could straight away do a good time and be fighting with Thierry, but on the second pass we just lacked the pace with the car in those kinds of rutted conditions. We pushed hard the whole weekend but on the second passes of stages the times were not there. At least we won’t have to open the road in Mexico and we can go there with a fresh mind and hopefully have a good rally.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“This has been a tough weekend and not what we hoped and worked for. Personally I have struggled to feel really confident in the car and on the back of that we made a couple of errors as well. In that sense I’m happy to at least come away with some points, but we come to rallies aiming for better performances and results than this. There are a few areas we will review after the event and work on for the future, but Sweden is always a very specific event. Now the focus needs to switch to gravel and I’m looking forward to Mexico.”
Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18)
“I have felt really good with the car this weekend. Thanks to the team who fixed the car after my accident on Friday so that I was able to get a lot of experience from the Saturday and Sunday stages, which will help for the future. Unfortunately we could not finish the rally today: I started to feel a lack of power and the engineers checked the data and saw there was an issue, so we couldn’t continue. I’m sorry for the team that we couldn’t get a good result here but I will try to perform well on the next rally.”
PROVISIONAL FINAL CLASSIFICATION, RALLY SWEDEN
1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) 2h25m54.5s
2 Craig Breen/James Fulton (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +18.7s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +20.0s
4 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +25.1s
5 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m24.0s
6 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Nicolas Gilsoul (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +5m59.0s
7 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +7m42.4s
8 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +7m48.1s
9 Ole Christian Veiby/Torstein Eriksen (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5) +8m30.4s
10 Sami Pajari/Enni Mälkönen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +9m03.2s
Retired Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID)
(Results as of 13:30 on Sunday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
The WRC returns to Rally México for the first time since 2020 on March 16-19. The first gravel event of the season features temperatures in the region of 30°C, and high altitude is also a major factor with a route that peaks at 2,747 metres above sea level.
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