All three Toyota drivers came through their toughest test yet to post points-scoring results on Rally Portugal, the sixth round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship yesterday. Juho Hänninen was seventh, Jari-Matti Latvala ninth and Esapekka Lappi, making his debut with the Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team, finished 10th, also netting two points with fourth fastest time in the event’s power stage in the Yaris WRC.
The rally lived up to its reputation for rough, car-breaking conditions, with hotter than expected temperatures adding to the challenge. Latvala proved a notable casualty on Friday, the first full day of action: holding second place and having led the field at one point, he rolled his Yaris WRC on the final stage of the day, losing more than four minutes on the leaders. He was able bring his car back safely for repairs during service ready for Saturday’s re-start in 13th place overall. Hänninen was seventh and Lappi eighth, despite being slowed by a blocked intercooler on the penultimate stage.
All three cars remained in contention on day two, and although Latvala had to battle the effects of a stomach upset – he had spent the night in hospital as a precaution – he continued to post top-three stage times. Hänninen’s progress was delayed when his car stopped briefly on one stage and Lappi survived damage to his car’s suspension and brakes after running wide on the loose surface through a bend.
The final day consisted of four stages run consecutively without service, including two passes on the famous Fafe stage with its spectacular jump. The Toyota drivers concentrated on bringing all three cars safely home to consolidate the team’s third spot in the manufacturers’ standings. Lappi’s driver points on the Power Stage were an unexpected bonus.
Tommi Mäkinen, Team Principal, said: “This was another very difficult rally from which we will learn a lot from the future. I’m particularly happy about the way it finished, with Esapekka doing a fantastic job to score three driver points on his debut. The way that he quickly came up to speed was very impressive and I am sure he has a strong future. But I would like to thank all of our drivers, co-drivers and team. Juho did a very solid job to score more driver points and without a couple of small issues he could have been even higher. He proved again how important he is to our programme.”
The team now have a three week break before heading to Sardinia for the Rally Italia Sardegna from 8 to 11 June. This is another tough challenge, with soft, sandy gravel stages and the expectation of high temperatures. Once again Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT will be field three cars, for Latvala, Hänninen and Lappi.
A full gallery of photos from Rally Portugal can be downloaded from here.
PROVISIONAL FINAL RESULT, RALLY PORTUGAL:
1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3h42m55.7s
2 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +15.6s
3 Dani Sordo/Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m01.7s
4 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1m30.2s
5 Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +1m57.4s
6 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3m10.6s
7 Juho Hänninen/Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3m48.6s
8 Mads Ostberg/Ola Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +5m29.7s
9 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5m43.6s
10 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +8m13.3s
(Results at 19:00 on Sunday (local time), for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round six:
1 Sebastien Ogier 128
2 Thierry Neuville 106
3 Jari-Matti Latvala 88
4 Ott Tanak 83
5 Dani Sordo 66
6 Elfyn Evans 53
7 Craig Breen 43
8 Hayden Paddon 33
9 Kris Meeke 27
10 Juho Hänninen 21
17 Esapekka Lappi 3
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round six:
1 M-Sport World Rally Team 199
2 Hyundai Motorsport 173
3 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT 113
4 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 85