Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team maintain their lead in the World Rally Championship (WRC) manufacturers’ standings after round two of the season, Rally Sweden. The team narrowly missed out on a podium place yesterday (Sunday) but claimed points for fourth and fifth after a hard-fought weekend of snow and ice action.
Kalle Rovanperä finished fourth, just 5.1 seconds from third place, after fighting hard until the last stage. Warmer conditions meant that last year’s Rally Sweden winner was at a disadvantage this time. He was running first on the road on Friday but 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. His results keep him in fourth in the championship race.
Thanks to the extra points from the Power Stage, TGR-WRT remain in the lead of the manufacturers’ championship by 14 points.
Rally Sweden was Takamoto Katsuta’s first drive 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 experience, opening the road on snow. 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 with Lorenzo Bertelli becoming the first customer driver to compete behind the wheel of the GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid. The Italian enjoyed the experience of driving the car on one of his favourite rallies, completing every stage and reaching the finish in 14th place.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal): “This was a rally we were hoping to get something more from, given that it has 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 the teams and it’s clear that the competition is going to be very close this year, just as we expected. With the results from the Power Stage, we have still scored some good points: we stay in 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 was quite a difficult weekend but in the end we can be fairly happy. Opening the road on Friday we lost over 30s just in one tricky stage that we drove twice. We were 25s behind at the finish, so we did quite a good rally in the circumstances. On Sunday morning’s 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 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 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. 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 felt really good with the car this weekend. Thanks to the team who fixed it 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 Mexico for the first time since 2020 on 6-19 March. The first gravel event of the season features temperatures in the region of 30°C. High altitude is also a major factor on a route that peaks at 2,747 metres above sea level.