Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team completed Rally Sweden with eight stage wins to their credit yesterday (18 February) but frustratingly outside the podium places.
The team’s progress in the second round of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship was hampered by early stage start positions, in effect making them pathfinders for cars lower down the order as they cleared newly fallen snow from the road surface.
Team newcomer Ott Tänak continued to demonstrate the speed and skill he showed in the Yaris WRC on the season-opening Rallye Monte Carlo, posting six stage wins. A minute-and-a-half lost when caught behind a slower car on stage during day three damaged his prospects of challenging for a top-three position.
It fell to Espekka Lappi to claim the top place for Toyota, finishing fourth overall thanks to a blistering performance on the final three stages of the event, including winning the points-scoring Power Stage. At the close Lappi led home Latvala in seventh and Tänak in ninth.
Tommi Mäkinen, Team Principal, said: “On the final day we were able to show some good performance by winning all three stages. Generally the performance of the car and the drivers has been good here but the conditions were sometimes a bit unequal. Hopefully something can be done so the conditions are fairer for all the drivers in future. Esapekka was very quick today. It has been a good rally for him and without one little mistake he could have been fighting for the highest position on the podium. We must not forget it was his first time on snow in a WRC car and next year I’m sure he will be even stronger.”
The team now have to prepare for a complete change of scene and climate, heading for Rally Mexico (8 to 11 March), the first gravel event of the season, contested at high altitude and in temperatures which can top 30°C.
PROVISIONAL FINAL RESULT, RALLY SWEDEN
1 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 2h52.13.1s
2 Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +19.8s
3 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +28.3s
4 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +45.8s
5 Hayden Paddon/Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +54.4s
6 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroen C3 WRC) +1m15.3s
7 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2m04.9s
8 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2m52.2s
9 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3m44.4s
10 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +5m27.4s
(Results as of 15:30 on Sunday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)