Toyota City, Japan, Jan 29, 2024 – (JCN Newswire via SeaPRwire.com) – TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team has started the 2024 FIA World Rally Championship season with a double podium finish at Rallye Monte-Carlo with Sébastien Ogier second and Elfyn Evans third.
Both Ogier and Evans were involved in an exciting fight for victory throughout the event, where drivers faced a challenging mix of conditions on the asphalt roads of the French Alps even if they were generally drier than usual.
Ogier spectacularly claimed the lead during Saturday afternoon when he recorded the 700th stage win of his WRC career, and ultimately went into the final day on Sunday just 3.3 seconds away from first-placed Thierry Neuville (Hyundai).
Despite his best efforts in pursuit of a record-extending victory in Monte Carlo, Ogier and his co-driver Vincent Landais would eventually have to settle for second place, finishing 16.1s behind the winner.
Evans and his co-driver Scott Martin made an excellent start to their season when the rally got underway on Thursday night, claiming an early lead that they held until Saturday morning.
After banking good points under the championship’s new format by ending the penultimate day in third, Evans continued to push hard on Sunday when additional points were on offer for the fastest drivers. He took second in Sunday’s separate classification, plus fourth in the rally-ending Power Stage, to end the weekend with 21 points and third place in the standings. Ogier, who was second in the Power Stage and third-fastest across Sunday, is second on 24 points.
Takamoto Katsuta was among several drivers caught out on an icy corner on Friday morning, when he lost five minutes after sliding wide, but showed some strong pace as he and co-driver Aaron Johnston recovered to seventh place overall and also took third in the Power Stage.
With second and third in the overall results, in the Sunday classification and in the Power Stage, TGR-WRT leads the manufacturers’ championship by one point.
The GR Yaris Rally2 made its competitive WRC debut this weekend with three of the four entered cars completing the full rally distance in the hands of customer teams. Sami Pajari and Enni Mälkönen (Printsport) were the best-placed crew at the finish in 12th overall and fifth in class RC2.
Akio Toyoda (TGR-WRT Chairman)
“The start of our eighth WRC season was a new step for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT. Nine years ago, on 15 January 2015, I announced Toyota’s return to the WRC and explained the following: ‘Rally is the best place to strengthen people and cars because it is a sport in which you compete using cars based on production vehicles on the roads that our customers use in their daily life. We would like to come back to WRC to make ever-better cars and to make many people smile.’
After seven seasons, we were able to offer two more options for our customers in addition to the GR Yaris which we launched in 2020. The first are the two special editions supervised by the WRC champions: GR Yaris Sébastien Ogier Edition and GR Yaris Kalle Rovanperä Edition. They are not just commemorative models. Both world champions were involved in the development and achieved the taste they wanted. You can enjoy doing donuts with Kalle’s edition which I’m also looking forward to trying. Seb’s edition has ‘Morizo mode’. The “seasoning” Seb reached during the development was the same as what I liked. It should have been named ‘Seb Mode’ but thanks to Seb’s favour, my name was used. Thank you, Seb!
And the second is GR Yaris Rally2. Rallye Monte-Carlo was the very first competition for our Rally2 and we had four teams of customers on board. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all the teams who took on new challenges with the cars with unknown capabilities.
The first GR Yaris Rally2 in Japan is scheduled to be delivered to Morizo, ‘an ordinary man who loves cars’. When it’s delivered, I will try it right away and see if there’s anything we can improve. Then, the car will be rented out to a customer in Japan to participate in the Japanese Rally Championship (JRC).
In order to have the Rally2 cars ready for Monte Carlo and the first round of JRC, the team members in Finland have been working very hard. I am relieved that all four cars completed the rally in their debut round. This is just the start. We have to keep trying to improve the car itself and the support system to become the product to be chosen by customers. I‘m sure the team will continue their efforts.
For TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, WRC is not just a competition to win. We compete in WRC to make ever-better cars and make more people smile. The joys and disappointments we have experienced over the 85 events so far have led even closer to the cars for our customers. This is a very big step. We were not able to celebrate the victory this time, but the driving of three Rally1s and four Rally2s will certainly lead into future events. I trust Jari-Matti will lead the team like past years to continue to work hard and to make the 2024 season a great year.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“Overall it has been a good weekend for us to start the season. Of course, we were in the lead of the rally earlier in the weekend and things were looking really good. Things then changed a bit and we hoped that we could bounce back today on the final day and take the victory. I think Seb did what he could but it seems that Neuville had one of those days where as a driver you can push yourself to an extra level. But it was a great fight that was exciting for everybody to follow, and in the end we got strong points as a team for the manufacturers’ championship. Elfyn also showed some great pace and confidence this weekend and I think he was clever too in the end to make sure he took away some good points.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“We showed that the potential was there to win this weekend but we just missed the feeling on Saturday afternoon for some reason. Today was much better. There was a real mix of conditions again but we had to keep pushing to score some more points under the new system and it turned out OK. It’s been a solid enough weekend. We always want to win, but above all I really wanted to finish this rally with solid points and we’ve done that. Long term we want to win rallies and we will see what’s possible on the next rally in Sweden.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17)
“I think I can be proud of my weekend, I tried everything I could. It’s been a difficult week for me with a big rollercoaster of emotions. On Monday I had to say goodbye to someone very important to me who basically introduced me to motorsport. The start of the event was not easy for many reasons, so I’m happy that we managed to stay in the fight the whole way, and I think it was a super exciting fight for all of the fans to follow. In the end, Thierry was faster this weekend and he deserved the win. I still managed to bring strong points to the team. It’s also my 15th Rallye Monte-Carlo and 13th time on the podium, so I can be proud of my record on such a challenging rally.”
Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18)
“My rally changed after my mistake on Friday morning when we lost the opportunity to fight for a good result, which was a big disappointment. I’m happy that I could bring the car to the finish in seventh and also score some extra points on Sunday and in the Power Stage. The car was working very well and I enjoyed the driving. When I felt comfortable and the risks were not so high from the conditions, I felt able to push and the times were pretty good, so that’s positive. The next rally in Sweden is one of my favourite rallies so I will try my best to get a good result there.”
PROVISIONAL FINAL CLASSIFICATION, RALLYE MONTE-CARLO
1 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) 3h9m30.9s
2 Sébastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +16.1s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +45.2s
4 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1m59.8s
5 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +3m36.9s
6 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +5m34.6s
7 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +8m28.5s
8 Yohan Rossel/Arnaud Dunand (Citroën C3 Rally2) +10m29.8s
9 Pepe López/David Vázquez (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +10m33.8s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Citroën C3 Rally2) +10m45.2s(Results as of 13:30 on Sunday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
2024 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round 1:
1 Thierry Neuville 30 points
2 Sébastien Ogier 24
3 Elfyn Evans 21
4 Ott Tänak 15
5 Adrien Fourmaux 11
6 Takamoto Katsuta 9
7 Andreas Mikkelsen 6
2024 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round 1:
1 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team 46 points
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 45
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 19
Rally Sweden (February 15-18) is the only full winter event of the season taking place on snow and ice. Metal studs inserted into the tyres bite into the surface to provide grip and allow for some of the highest speeds of the year.
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