TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team has scored a superb victory and double podium finish on the return of Rally México, as Sébastien Ogier became the undisputed master of the demanding gravel event with a record seventh win.
In what was the FIA World Rally Championship’s first trip to the high-altitude stages in the mountains above León since 2020, and therefore the first of the Rally1 era, the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID performed strongly to lock out three of the top four positions in a thrilling conclusion, with Elfyn Evans finishing third and Kalle Rovanperä fourth.
Having led from the first stage of Saturday morning, Ogier and co-driver Vincent Landais came into Sunday’s finale with a lead of 35.8 seconds, a cushion that allowed them to take a safe approach to the morning’s stages – which included the longest of the weekend, the 35.63 kilometre-long Otates. Ogier then delivered an incredible performance to seal the victory with the fastest time on the rally-ending Power Stage, securing a maximum score that puts him top of the championship standings by three points – even though he has only contested two of the three events held so far.
This latest record broken by Ogier (who had claimed TGR-WRT’s first Mexico win three years ago) comes after he also set a new benchmark for the number of wins on Rallye Monte-Carlo with his ninth triumph in January. It also continues the great start to his collaboration with Landais, who was competing in Mexico for the first time.
The team came agonisingly close to securing a one-two finish, with Evans missing out on second place by just 0.4 seconds on the final stage to Thierry Neuville (Hyundai). Evans and co-driver Scott Martin began the day well, beating their rivals to the fastest time in Otates to strengthen their grip on second. After sustaining suspension damage they carried out roadside repairs that allowed them to keep up the fight, but they would ultimately have to settle for the third step of the podium after a battling drive.
Rovanperä and Halttunen took away more strong points for their championship defence in fourth place, having ended Friday already a minute off the lead after having to effectively clean a path through the loose gravel stages. Rovanperä pushed hard in the Power Stage in search of bonus points, and set the fourth-fastest time after a wide moment damaged the rear wing of his car. He is now third in the standings, four points behind Ogier.
Takamoto Katsuta reached the finish of his first ever Rally Mexico, driving a fourth GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID with the support of the TGR WRC Challenge Program. He and co-driver Aaron Johnston returned to action under restart rules on Saturday after a spin had taken them off the road on Friday.
Akio Toyoda (TGR-WRT Chairman)
“’Rally México is an especially difficult event.’ This is what has been always in our minds in TGR. Seb won the event three years ago, but still we could not shake off the apprehension of engine trouble before driving in Mexico in high temperatures and at high altitude. This time, in the first Rally México after three years, Seb and our partner, Denso, helped us overcome such concerns.
Seb, congratulations on your latest consecutive win in Mexico! Vincent, congratulations on your first victory there!
Back in 2017, our first year with Yaris WRC, Denso’s radiator team saw us struggling with heat management and started to give us support. Since then, they have continued to improve the cooling performance. This was the first Rally México with the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID, but I think the crews were able to drive with confidence in the engine thanks to Denso’s ‘Rei-kyaku Damashii’ – the special name for their devotion to cooling, or ‘Cooling Spirit’. I would like to express my appreciation for their strong support and partnership with us.
Elfyn, Scott, congratulations on the first podium this season! It was a shame to drop one position in the final stage, but I think he almost found the last piece that he has been looking for. The whole team will continue ever-better car making for Elfyn.
For Kalle and Jonne, it seems like the events continue to be trials for our defending champions, but I’m sure they will continue to enjoy rallying without rushing.
Takamoto and Aaron will be fine too as long as Taka doesn’t rush and keeps believing in his driving. I always like to see his relaxed face which I saw in Japan earlier this month.
Finally, I would like to thank the members of Toyota Mexico who gave a nice gift to the team. I saw Jari-Matti and the mechanics wearing masks like wrestlers on the team’s social media. Maybe that was one of the reasons behind the win, as the team was able to relax with the unique gift.
Thanks to all that support, we can now completely stop feeling that we are not good at Rally México!”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“This is an amazing result for us. Last year we were quite far from the pace on hot and rough gravel rallies like this one, and everybody had some doubts about how we would manage here in Mexico. But all the work that our development engineers did before this event has turned that around so that we had the car to win the rally and win the Power Stage. I’m so happy and proud of the team. There were so many emotions in that last stage and what Seb was able to do by winning the stage was incredible. Elfyn was slightly unlucky right at the end but to be back on the podium gives him good confidence for the future, while Kalle did a good job too, thinking about the championship and the points.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“It has not been an easy weekend for us. We lost out on Friday when we were kind of opening the road and then we were a bit behind in the fight for the rest of the weekend. I was hoping we could get some more points from the Power Stage; we were pushing really hard and tried everything we could but we lost the rear wing going wide in one corner and after that I couldn’t really push so much without that downforce. But to finish fourth overall from our starting position gives us some decent points. Congratulations to Seb who did a great job this weekend.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“We had a pretty good start to the final day, but unfortunately just near the end of the long stage we picked up some damage to a suspension arm. We could carry out a repair on the road section but I felt I had to try and take care with it through the last two stages, and we weren’t quite able to keep Thierry at bay. It was very close in the end but just not quite enough. Overall though it has been a solid weekend. I think we had the speed to finish second and the positive thing is that we are back on the podium after what feels like a really long time. So I’m happy for that and also now with the feeling in the car on gravel.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17)
“It has been an amazing weekend and I’m very happy to take this victory. We came here with a clear goal to win this rally. The car was great this weekend; it was a faultless weekend for us and a strong weekend for the team, so thank you to them for making this possible. When you end up taking 30 points it’s really a perfect weekend. We had great pace when we needed it, and great management too when it was required. It’s not easy when you need to manage a gap like that and I think today was the toughest loop of the weekend. I could afford to lose a bit of time but it was important to stay focused. I felt I had to go for it in the Power Stage because I love that stage, and it’s important to score the points, also for the team. Records and numbers are always nice and of course I’m proud of them, but the most important thing for me is this victory.”
PROVISIONAL FINAL CLASSIFICATION, RALLY MÉXICO
1 Sébastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 3h16m09.4s
2 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +27.5s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +27.9s
4 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m55.3s
5 Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +2m58.8s
6 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +12m31.5s
7 Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +13m04.4s
8 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +13m37.7s
9 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +15m19.6s
10 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +15m56.6s
(Results as of 15:00 on Sunday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
The Croatia Rally on April 20-23 is the first pure asphalt round of the season, held on challenging roads around the capital city, Zagreb. As well as a mix of fast and more technical sections, the stages feature constant surface and grip changes.
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