The Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team has achieved a double podium on Rallye Monte-Carlo, the first event with its all-new driver line-up. Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans finished second and third respectively after strong performances on their Toyota Yaris WRC debuts, even though they ultimately missed out on victory in a three-way final-day fight. Rookie driver Kalle Rovanperä rounded out a positive weekend for the team with a fine fifth place on his debut at rallying’s highest level.
Quickly up to speed in their new cars, Ogier and Evans traded the lead with each other from Friday morning until Saturday afternoon. Evans led into the final day’s four stages with an advantage of 4.9 seconds over his team-mate. But their third-placed rival was only 1.5s further back, and posted a string of fastest times to ultimately deny the Toyota duo.
Ogier edged Evans for second overall on the rally-ending Power Stage, where he just missed out on the fastest time by 0.012 seconds. His second place together with co-driver Julien Ingrassia represents a strong beginning to his bid for a seventh world title this season. Evans – co-driven by Scott Martin – meanwhile acheived his best ever Rallye Monte-Carlo finish, after challenging for his second career victory.
Rovanperä – who at 19-years-old is the youngest ever full-time factory driver in the WRC – moved up to fifth place with co-driver Jonne Halttunen on the final day to round out an impressively mistake-free and mature performance in the demanding conditions.
Takamoto Katsuta made it four Toyota Yaris WRCs in the top seven with his best finish to-date at the start of an eight-round campaign with the Toyota Gazoo Racing Rally Challenge Program, navigated by Dan Barritt.
Akio Toyoda (Team Chairman)
“The 2020 season of the FIA World Rally Championship has just started. This year, Rally Japan is in the calendar, which will make it a particularly exciting season for us. For TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, this is a new season that starts with eight new drivers and co-drivers. I am happy to see this new team begin with all four Yaris WRC finishing in the points, and two cars finishing on the podium, with Ogier/Ingrassia second and Evans/Martin third; this is a great start to the season. I really appreciated the team preparing for this season in such a short period of the time. Thank you everyone! However, I reiterated our slogan ‘We hate to lose’ with the new drivers two weeks ago when we held the press conference in Tokyo. So I believe everyone, including me, has a little bit of regret in this season opener. As I said, this year’s team is ‘a team where all drivers can win’. Let’s fight hard together to target the top of the podium and keep working together to make the Yaris stronger. Thank you in advance for our fans to support us this season.
To Sébastien and Julien,
I know that you would have liked to continue your consecutive victories at your home event. Let’s make our Yaris “ever-better” together and try to win as much as possible. We hate to lose!”
Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal)
“It has been an excellent weekend for us. Of course, there is a small disappointment about today and missing out on the victory. We are always learning, and and the drivers didn’t have the perfect feeling with the car this morning. We made some changes to the setup later on, and they found good speed again at the end. We are competing at the highest level and it is so, so tight. The overall result is still incredible for our first rally with our new drivers: Not just to have Sébastien and Elfyn both on the podium, but also for Kalle to finish fifth in his first rally at the top level. It is very promising for the future.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17)
“I feel good honestly, it’s a positive result. Of course, I had hoped to deliver even more and bring the team a win straight away. But it’s always such a huge challenge to adapt to a new environment, especially on such a challenging rally, so I think we can be happy. I tried to stay in my comfort zone the whole weekend, not overdo it. We missed it by just a little bit, but 22 points is very good for the championship. There were some good moments during the weekend where we felt good in the car, some where I didn’t have enough confidence to really push the limits, but I really feel this car’s potential. I really enjoyed to drive it and I’m sure with a little bit more time, we’ll make great things together.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“Obviously I feel a little bit disappointed today because I think we had the potential to win the rally. It’s difficult now because when you lead the rally, your expectations are raised and the win becomes the target of course. But it’s generally been a positive weekend. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite the feeling that I needed today. I was pushing hard but the speed wasn’t coming so naturally. I wasn’t nailing every corner and that ultimately cost us the handful of seconds we missed out by. We still have a little bit of learning to do, but overall it’s not a bad start and we can build on it.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“It has been a nice weekend. It was really tricky learning a new car in these conditions – and I think the conditions were really tricky this year, as they were changing a lot. It was getting better all the time and when there were conditions I was more familiar with, I could do a bit better. There were so many things I learned during the weekend. It really helps to have a clean rally at the start of the season and also some good points.”
PROVISIONAL FINAL CLASSIFICATION, RALLYE MONTE-CARLO
1 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 3h10m57.6s
2 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota Yaris WRC) +12.6s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota Yaris WRC) +14.3s
4 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3m09.0s
5 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4m17.2s
6 Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +5m04.7s
7 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota Yaris WRC) +11m27.9s
8 Eric Camilli/François-Xavier Buresi (Citroën C3 R5) +13m42.2s
9 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5) +14m21.8s
10 Nicolas Ciamin/Yannick Roche (Citroën C3 R5) +15m04.0s
(Results as of 15:00 on Sunday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
Rally Sweden is the WRC’s only full winter event, held on snow and ice since it became a founding round of the world championship in 1973. It was the scene of the Toyota Yaris WRC’s maiden victory in 2017, and a second win for the team followed in 2019.
Press release Toyota Gazoo Racing ; picture : Jean-Baptiste Lassaux/Sport-Auto.ch