Toyota Gazoo Racing crossed the finish line with nothing but cheering supporters filling the view of their windshield at this past weekend’s Rally Sweden. With driver Jari-Matti Latvala and navigator Miika Anttila at the helm of their Toyota Yaris WRC, Toyota Gazoo Racing claimed victory of the second round of the 2017 World Rally Championship, giving them an early lead in the championship.
The last WRC race in which Toyota reigned victorious was in 1999 at Rally China, just before their grand exit from the championship – making their latest victory in their inaugural year quite a big deal.
Latvala and Anttila snatched the lead on Day 2 of the rally, capitalising on the opportunity that was left after initial leader, Thierry Neuville, broke his Hyundai’s steering. A consecutive triple stage win on the final day saw Latvala being the first to disrupt the snow on the finish line almost 30 seconds before any of his competition.
Tommi Makkinen, four time world champion and Toyota Gazoo Racing team leader, was properly excited about the team’s victory: “It’s very hard to find the words to describe what I am feeling right now: what we are all feeling. Monte-Carlo was an unexpected result, but this is beyond unexpected. Of course, we were lucky to have this win, but it’s also a huge tribute to the talent of Jari-Matti and the united team work that has taken place in Finland, Germany and Japan. It's an incredible feeling and I just want to thank everybody who has made it possible: especially our chairman Mr Toyoda for his faith in us, Jari-Matti, Miika, Juho, and Kaj. This is a special day that we are all going to remember for a very long time, but at the same time we will keep our feet on the ground now and continue to work as hard as always.”
Latvala shared a similar, albeit diplomatic, excitement: “I am so, so happy. For a new team and new car to win its second rally: I have no words. I think I drove my best power stage ever today. Huge thanks to all the team. Now we are super-motivated to continue like this: I just can’t wait to get to Mexico. It’s fantastic to win but I also feel very sorry for Thierry Neuville, who lost the lead yesterday at the super special stage. I have been in a similar situation myself in the past, so I completely understand how he must be feeling now. We know we were lucky, so we need to carry on improving and working for our goal.”
The next and third WRC race will take place in Mexico on 8 to 12 March 2017. Be sure to keep an eye on Toyota Gazoo Racing continuing their disruption of 18 year-standing ideas of the best WRC teams.