TOKYO, Aug 7, 2023 – TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team is celebrating another win on its home roads of Rally Finland thanks to a spectacular drive by Elfyn Evans, with team-mate Takamoto Katsuta also battling to finish on the podium in third overall.
Evans becomes only the third driver from outside of Finland to win the event on multiple occasions as he and co-driver Scott Martin repeated their 2021 triumph on the fastest rally in the FIA World Rally Championship.
Welshman Evans looked at home in his GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID all weekend, closely matched with team-mate and local hero Kalle Rovanpera on Friday until the Finn had to retire following a crash. Having taken over the lead, Evans was then in fine form on Saturday, winning seven consecutive stages to build an advantage of over 30 seconds ahead of the final day.
He won three of Sunday’s last four stages, sealing his seventh career victory by 39.1s with the fastest time in the rally-ending Power Stage. Second in the championship standings, Evans’ maximum score means he is now 25 points from leader Rovanpera with four rallies remaining.
Katsuta scored his fourth WRC podium after a strong and confident performance on the roads around Jyvaskyla, where he has lived for many years. He and co-driver Aaron Johnston won Friday’s first forest stage and were soon fighting for a podium place on pace, even as others were caught out by the slippery conditions that dominated the event.
An excellent drive on wet roads to win Saturday’s final stage also allowed him to regain the advantage in his fight for third with Teemu Suninen (Hyundai). He stretched that advantage with a further fastest time on SS20 on Sunday before setting the fourth-best time in the Power Stage to seal third overall.
Following its fifth Rally Finland win since 2017, TGR-WRT increases its manufacturers’ championship lead to 67 points.
Jari-Matti Latvala finished fifth overall after driving his home event for the first time since 2019 – at the invitation of TGR-WRT Chairman Akio Toyoda, who took on his Team Principal duties in the service park. Along with co-driver Juho Hanninen – the team’s test driver – Latvala delighted fans all weekend with his enthusiasm on the stages during his first experience of competition with the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID.
Akio Toyoda as alternate Team Principal
“During Rally Finland, I had four jobs as the alternate Team Principal. The first job was to talk to the team members. In addition to the regular morning greetings, what I told them were simply three things: “One team”, “never give up”, and “we hate to lose”. And one more Finnish word that I learned this time: SISU! I don’t get to see the team very often, but we can reach out to each other with these words. I said “never give up” to Kalle when he came back after the accident, and he returned: “we hate to lose”. After his rally finished, Kalle was giving lots of advice to Takamoto. This shows we are a real “one team”. I am grateful for Jari-Matti once again, who has built and is leading such a great team. I want to thank him and the team for this amazing week!
My second job was to follow the crews on the stages. Takamoto felt I was watching him on the stage and he set the top time on that stage. I felt I was able to contribute to the speed as well! And finally I was able to achieve the podium together with Takamoto which I have long waited for. Congratulations, Taka!
The third job was to take media interviews. I did quite a few interviews at the stages and the service park. It was a lot of work and that made me realise that Tommi and Jari-Matti have been doing this for us, Toyota, and I really appreciate it.
And the last one was to stand on the podium. It made me completely wet and sticky, but it was a really wonderful experience. I really thank Elfyn and Scott who made me experience this. I already said to them at the podium, but once again: Elfyn, Scott, congratulations! Thank you for bringing me to the podium! It’s not nice to get wet and sticky, but I definitely want to do this amazing job in Japan again. I feel sorry for Kalle and Jonne that they couldn’t finish the rally, but I want to get wet together with them next time for sure.
Being the alternate Team Principal this time, I was able to realise that each member of the team is doing a very hard job in each area and that made me appreciate everybody again. Jari-Matti will be back as Team Principal for the rest of the events. We will continue to work and fight together with our special words: ‘one team’, ‘never give up’, ‘we hate to lose’, and ‘SISU’.”
Akio Toyoda as Chairman of TGR-WRT
“Our goal is to be a ‘driver-oriented’ team. However, the Team Principal, Jari-Matti had driven only our Yaris WRC and he had never competed with our GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID. Therefore I have long wanted him to drive the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID someday when there was a good opportunity. Finally, it came true and he could complete all stages together with his driver buddy, Juho. They seemed to be smiling all the time even though there might have been difficult times at some point. Together with Jari-Matti and the team, we will keep making cars that our crews can always drive comfortably with a smile.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“It’s been a great weekend for us and it feels pretty special to win this rally for the second time. It’s one of my favourites and a home rally for the team with the factory being based in Jyvaskyla. It also feels really special to win with Akio here this weekend and to share the podium with him and with Taka as well. It’s been fantastic to drive this car on these roads and it’s been a joy to be behind the wheel. We had a really nice feeling almost from the beginning. We were sorry to lose Kalle from the fight on Friday but then we could make a few little steps with the setup for Saturday which really boosted my confidence. Things really clicked and the stage times came naturally. It’s a positive weekend in terms of the championship as well and we’re now a bit closer to Kalle than we were before.”
Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18)
“I’m very happy to be on the podium at Rally Finland, my second home rally. It’s a really big thing for me and the team and also for Akio-san. He was giving me extra energy and motivation which was helping in the really intense battle that we had with Teemu. He was doing a really good job so it was not so easy, but we managed to make some gap on Saturday evening when the conditions were tricky, and this made the final day a bit less stressful. After Rally Estonia we worked really hard together with the team’s engineers to analyse where I could improve and this was why I could perform well already from Friday morning. I must also say thanks to Kalle who was giving me advice during our tests for driving these Finnish roads.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 97)
“It has been an amazing and fun feeling all weekend, I really enjoyed the driving in this car. Thank you to Akio and the team for giving me this great opportunity. It’s been something really phenomenal that I will remember for the rest of the life. It was extraordinary to be able to drive relaxed without having to think about the results. When the conditions were difficult, we could just drive with our own rhythm and to end up fifth overall and even score in the Power Stage, it’s just fantastic. It is also really special to see Elfyn on the top step of the podium and Takamoto in third and I’m really happy for both of them.”
PROVISIONAL FINAL CLASSIFICATION, RALLY FINLAND
1. Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 2h33m11.3s
2. Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +39.1s
3. Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m36.7s
4. Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1m41.0s
5. Jari-Matti Latvala/Juho Hanninen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +4m09.4s
6. Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +9m33.6s
7. Sami Pajari/Enni Malkonen (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +10m03.7s
8. Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Fiesta Rally2) +10m37.5s
9. Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +11m11.5s
10. Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +11m35.2s
(Results as of 14:30 on Sunday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
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