Latvala second on Rallye Monte-Carlo as TOYOTA GAZOO makes its debut

Jari-Matti Latvala delivered Toyota an amazing podium on the manufacturer’s return to the WRC from a 17-year hiatus. The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing driver inherited second after Tänak’s earlier woes, and managed the Yaris WRC on the treacherous roads to hold the position to the end.

It was a successful rally for all of the former Volkswagen drivers, with Andreas Mikkelsen taking the WRC 2 category win for Škoda by three minutes - and finishing an impressive seventh outright. The FIA WRC 3 Championship was won by Raphael Astier in his Peugeot 208.

In the FIA World Rally Championship, Ogier tops the standings with 25 points, heading Latvala and Tänak in second and third respectively. With the top two cars scoring points for the Manufacturers’ Championship, M-Sport takes a 16 point lead over TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. In the Power Stage, the early runners made the most of their much better conditions before the snow started falling heavily. Long-time rally leader, Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, took the stage win by an impressive 30 seconds and collects five points towards the Drivers’ Championship, some consolation after such a fine run from the outset. With points available for the top five crews this year, Stéphane Lefebvre in the new Citroën C3 WRC picked up points ahead of Juho Hänninen, Eflyn Evans and Dani Sordo.

The second round of the FIA World Rally Championship takes the contenders to the only true winter event of the season, Rally Sweden (9-12 February).

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing has finished Rallye Monte-Carlo, the oldest and most prestigious round of the FIA World Rally Championship, with a result that has surpassed all expectations on the team’s debut: second overall with Jari-Matti Latvala and Miika Anttilla. Juho Hänninen and Kaj Lindström also finished the rally, in 16th place, after rejoining on Saturday. This collective result ensures a double score in the manufacturers’ standings for the brand new Yaris WRC, placing TOYOTA GAZOO Racing second in the championship after only its first event.

The final day of the rally was scheduled to cover four stages over the most famous part of the route: the legendary Col de Turini. This became three stages after the penultimate test was cancelled for reasons of spectator safety. The route was largely dry, but there were still some slippery sections, with rain and snow reported on the stages. Juho crowned his excellent performance with third overall on the Power Stage today, which earned him three driver championship points: so Toyota has scored in both championships on its debut.

Quotes:Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal) “I’m very happy. This result goes a long way beyond our expectations, as this is really only a development year. We didn’t have much experience but our rally was nearly perfect: both crews reacted very well to the changing circumstances and they were able to set stage times in the top three, which is very encouraging. Jari-Matti had a problem with a sensor during the rally, which was distracting him, and there was a worry that if he stopped the car in the stage he might not be able to restart. But how he coped with this was very impressive. A big thank you to the team for all the hard work so far. We still have a lot of work ahead but this is a good start.”

Koei Saga (Team Vice-Principal) “I’m so happy that we have finished the first rally of our return with a result that is better than expected, as we aim to make ever-better cars. I’d like to thank all our team members and crews for their hard work, as well as all the fans who have been waiting for us to come back for 17 years. It’s clear that we have good potential, but our competitors are very strong and we still have plenty of work to do to be regarded as their rivals in a real sense. We’ll be doing our best to get there!”

Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 10) “I am so happy with the result, although I am sorry for Ott Tanak, who was second before he had a problem. If you had told me before the start of the rally that this is where we would finish, I would never have believed it. In fact, this equals my best-ever result on this rally. The last stages were very difficult, like the whole rally was in fact, and my main priority was to look after the tyres. On the final stage there was some snow so it was hard to find the grip. It’s been an amazing rally, and it’s been fantastic to feel all the support of the fans in particular.”

Juho Hänninen (Driver car 11) “Today I tried to be as careful as possible in order to be sure of us bringing two cars home on our first rally, which is a fantastic result: especially with one car on the podium. On the last stage it was really difficult to see exactly where the snow and ice was. It’s a pity that we made a mistake on Friday as otherwise we had no problems and our pace was good. Considering my lack of experience it was still a good result here for me and as a team we have learned a lot, which is the most important thing. We will try and keep improving now.”

End of day four: 1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 4h00m03.6s2 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miika Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2m15.0s3 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2m57.8s4 Dani Sordo/Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +3m35.8s5 Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen DS3 WRC) +3m47.8s6 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +6m45.0s7 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Skoda Fabia R5) +9m32.7s8 Jan Kopecky/Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +12m58.1s9 Stephane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau (Citroen C3 WRC) +14m43.8s10 Bryan Bouffier/Denis Giraudet (Ford Fiesta R5) +16m09.4s16 Juho Hänninen/Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +32m16.8s(Results as of 16:30 on Sunday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)

What’s next? The next round of the FIA World Rally Championship is Rally Sweden from 9-12 February. Sticking with the winter theme, this rally is held exclusively on snow and ice, with the cars running on specialised snow tyres that feature long studs designed to grip into the ice and provide traction. With temperatures that have been known to drop below minus 20 degrees centigrade, it will be another tough test for the brand new Toyota Yaris WRC as it continues its development.