Toyota has secured an impressive double podium in challenging conditions at the 86th Monte Carlo rally, the opening round of the 2018 World Rally Championship.
Debutant Toyota GAZOO Racing World Rally Team driver Ott Tänak took four stage victories and finished second overall in treacherous road conditions that swung from ice, snow and mud to dry asphalt, sometimes all in the same stage.
Teammate Jari-Matti Latvala finished third in his Yaris WRC car and claimed two bonus championship points in the final power stage.
Rounding out the Toyota trio of drivers, Esapekka Lappi performed strongly in his first Monte Carlo rally driving a WRC-spec car, although a small mistake left him in seventh, just 15 seconds away from fourth.
Monte Carlo was the first event for the Toyota team’s revised Yaris WRC cars, which feature improved aerodynamics for greater front grip.
Team chairman and Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda paid tribute to the team, drivers and co-drivers for showing reliability in adverse, constantly changing conditions.
“Having developed the Yaris WRC on different roads all over the world last year, all of us at Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT made it even better during the short off-season and put an improved Yaris on the starting ramp in Casino Square, Monte Carlo,” Mr Toyoda said.
“We are focused on making an even better Yaris, thanks to the valuable lessons learned from the world’s most demanding rally stages,” he said.
Team principal Tommi Mäkinen said the team is now the strongest it has been since Toyota returned to world rallying at the beginning of last year.
“I am happy with the whole team effort and very impressed with the way Ott has fitted into the team so quickly, how professional he is and how soon he has learned everything,” Mäkinen said.
Tänak said he had joined a very strong team. “The car has been amazing and I’ve felt really comfortable in it since the start of the rally,” he said. “We were able to take it steady because we were in a strong position. I’m now really looking forward to the coming rallies.”
Latvala said he was relieved to get to the finish and be on the podium in the tricky conditions.
“The team has done an excellent job and the car is performing really well so I’m excited for the season ahead. It’s going to be about staying cool and to think about the championship and about the points. This has been a good start.”
The team will face more snow and ice in three weeks at Rally Sweden, which was won last year by Latvala.