Toyota celebrated its first win of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship season after Ott Tanak clinched a dominant victory on round two, Rally Sweden. It is the second win in three years for the Toyota Yaris WRC on the event, the scene of its maiden triumph in 2017. Tanak also won the rally-ending Power Stage to claim maximum points.
The drivers faced difficult conditions throughout the weekend as warm temperatures caused the ice and snow to melt. Tanak ended Friday within two seconds of the rally lead and then capitalised on his better road position on Saturday to open up an advantage of nearly a minute over the competition. On Sunday, he took care through the opening two stages and was then fastest on the Power Stage by 3.5 seconds to claim the five available bonus points.
Co-driven by Martin Järveoja, Tanak now leads the drivers’ championship standings for the first time in his career
— TGR World Rally Team (@TGR_WRC) February 17, 2019
“We have had a very good weekend. Friday was a key moment where we had to get through to minimise the time loss in the conditions, but after this we just drove with a good rhythm and as little risk as possible. Sunday was about saving the tyres for the Power Stage and to give it a big push. We had a very good run and everything was working really well, so I was really comfortable in the car. We have a very strong team and it’s great for us to have this kind of result at the beginning of the season”, Tanak said.
Kris Meeke clinched sixth position overall in his second rally with the team. His points have helped the team to claim a one-point lead in the manufacturers’ championship.
“The conditions [on Sunday] morning were very nice with full ice: just what we really like to drive on. My today was to try and finish in front of Sebastien Loeb and we managed to increase the gap, so I’m happy with that. On the Power Stage I had a big impact on the front-left and I struggled after that. The mild temperatures have been so different to my pre-event test and I’ve lacked some speed as a result. But it’s good to get to the end and score some points for the team”, the British driver commented.
— Rally Sweden (@RallySweden) February 17, 2019
Jari-Matti Latvala, competing under restart rules following his off on Friday, claimed a stage win in Sunday’s opening test
Marcus Grönholm also completed his comeback rally in a privately-entered Yaris WRC.
“The first stage [on Sunday] morning was the best stage of the rally: nice, clean ice conditions with big snowbanks, and a fast, flowing road over the crests. It was really enjoyable to drive and nice to be back in a good rhythm. I hoped to get some points on the Power Stage and finish the rally on a high note, but the conditions there for me were very difficult, especially the last part where there was lots of snow and slush. Now we look forward to Mexico”, Latvala said.
Toyota Team Principal Tommi Mäkinen added:
“It is brilliant to get a win here in the second round of the season and to be leading both championships. Ott has dominated the whole weekend, showing everyone how to drive in the difficult conditions. He is really strong at the moment. When I look at him right now, I see myself over 20 years ago when I was focusing on winning the title. Of course, it has been a more difficult weekend for Kris and for Jari-Matti, but they too have shown the speed of our car, and it is reliable too.”
— Michelin Motorsport (@Michelin_Sport) February 17, 2019