Toyota Gazoo Racing finish strongly on Swedish snow

20 February 2024

Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team completed a challenging Rally Sweden on a high, (18 February) with Elfyn Evans finishing second and scoring a strong haul of points towards the 2024 FIA World Rally Championship.

It was a strong recovery for Evans after he was forced to run first on the road and plough through deep snow on Friday afternoon. Having been just 1.9 seconds from the eventual winner during midday service, he fell back to 1m50s from the lead at the end of the day in the extreme conditions.

Moving up from fifth to third on Saturday morning, he then stormed into second place on Sunday’s opening stage. He was fastest in the subsequent second pass of that stage and finished a close second in the rally-ending Power Stage. That was enough to top the ‘Super Sunday’ classification, giving him and co-driver Scott Martin a total of 24 points from the weekend – more than any other crew.

Both Kalle Rovanperä and Takamoto Katsuta fought for the rally lead before they fell victim to the snowbanks that line the stages. Rovanperä held the early lead until contact with a bank in SS4 on Friday caused radiator damage. He restarted on Saturday and targeted manufacturers’ points on Sunday, where he was second quickest to Evans across the day and fastest by just 0.039s in the Power Stage. The team therefore took the maximum 22 points available on Sunday and remain jointly in the lead of the manufacturer’s championship after two rounds.

After an excellent drive through Friday’s demanding conditions, Katsuta was only 0.9s from first place before he got stuck in a snowbank on Saturday morning’s SS10. He too returned to the action on Sunday.

Lorenzo Bertelli enjoyed driving an additional, fourth GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid on the Swedish stages for the second year in succession through TGR-WRT’s customer programme. Enthusiastic as ever, the Italian reached the finish in 10th place overall.

In its second WRC2 event, the GR Yaris Rally2 proved to be a competitive force with four cars finishing inside the top five of the class and the overall top 10 in the hands of customer teams. Those four cars were engaged in close competition for most of the event, with Sami Pajari ultimately finishing second in WRC2 for Printsport ahead of Georg Linnamäe (RedGrey), Roope Korhonen (Rautio Motorsport) and Mikko Heikkilä (TGS). There was also an outright stage win in the extreme conditions of Friday afternoon for Linnamäe on SS5.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal): “This was a tougher weekend than we had anticipated and the overall result is not what we would have wanted, but I’m really happy at least with what we could do on this final day. Our preparation was good, the car was performing well and the drivers were confident, but we couldn’t complete the final step. When you push hard, which you need to do if you want to win, mistakes can happen and this weekend that happened for two of our drivers. Elfyn meanwhile was in a very difficult position on Friday opening the road with so much snow, so he has done a great job to take second overall and fastest on Sunday, and he was on to win the Power Stage too until the final corners. For us to have a one-two on Sunday and the Power Stage is really helping for the manufacturers’ championship.”

Kalle Rovanperä (driver car 69): “Our only goal today was to help the team to get some points and I’m pleased that we were able to do that, and we also tried to help Elfyn where we could. Of course, I’m not satisfied because we came here to win. Sorry and thanks to the team, because everyone did a really good job in our preparation; the car was fast enough to win and we just couldn’t bring it all together. At least we could bring some points at the finish and we will look forward to the next opportunity.”

Elfyn Evans (driver car 33): “It was a very up-and-down weekend. It wasn’t looking so good on Friday when we had a difficult job with our road position but we managed to get through it which I think was important, and had the opportunity to climb back up the leaderboard. When conditions were suiting us, our pace was OK and we managed get some good points in the end. We probably should have won the Power Stage, but made a couple of mistakes. Still, from where we were earlier in the weekend, I think we can be reasonably happy.”

Takamoto Katsuta (driver car 18): “Today I wanted to try and take some points but it was not easy with our road position and the very different lines that we had to follow in the Power Stage. It has been a difficult weekend for me. We had good performance and the car had very good potential, I was just not able to take the result from it. I need to think about how I can learn from this and do better next time so that I can take these chances when they come. The next event in Kenya has been good for me before, so I just need to reset and go with the right approach for that rally.”

1 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) 2h33m04.9s
2 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +29.6s
3 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +47.9s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1m46.3s
5 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +5m04.2s
6 Sami Pajari/Enni Mälkönen (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2) +6m23.9s
7 Georg Linnamäe/James Morgan (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2) +6m26.4.s
8 Roope Korhonen/Anssi Viinikka (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2) +6m48.1s
9 Mikko Heikkilä/Kristian Temonen (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2) +7m25.7s
10 Lorenzo Bertelli/Simone Scattolin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +7m37.7s
39 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +48m31.9s
45 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +59m04.5s

2024 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round 2:
1 Thierry Neuville 48 points
2 Elfyn Evans 45
3 Adrien Fourmaux 29
4 Sébastien Ogier 24
5 Ott Tänak 21
6 Esapekka Lappi 19
7 Takamoto Katsuta 12
8 Kalle Rovanperä 11
9 Oliver Solberg 8
10 Andreas Mikkelsen 6

2024 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round 2:
1= Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 87 points
1= TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team 87
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 47

What’s next?
The Safari Rally Kenya – the only African round of the WRC – has moved forward from June to an earlier date of 28-31 March for 2024. Having returned to the schedule in 2021, the event continues to provide gruelling conditions on rough and rocky roads as well as high speeds across open plains.


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Toyota Gazoo Racing finish strongly on Swedish snow


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