Toyota has celebrated victory just two events into its comeback to the World Rally Championship (WRC) with an emotional first place in the snow and ice of Rally Sweden.
Jari-Matti Latvala in the No. 10 Toyota Yaris WRC took a slender 3.8-second lead into the final day, then won all three stages to extend his winning margin to 29.2 seconds.
Latvala leads the WRC driver’s championship by four points with Toyota placed second in the manufacturer’s title race.
It was Toyota’s first WRC victory since Rally China in 1999 and the first time in three years that any driver other than four-time champion Sebastien Ogier has led the championship.
Latvala, whose victory was his fourth in Sweden and the 17th of his career, expressed his emotions after outdoing his runner-up position in last month’s season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo.
“I am so, so happy. For a new team and new car to win its second rally: I really have no words,” the Finn said. “Now we are super-motivated to continue like this: I just can’t wait to get to Mexico (the next round).”
Team chairman Akio Toyoda said he had been looking forward to a victory, but never imagined it would happen so soon.
“It’s a great feeling to win a round of the World Rally Championship after a break of 17 years,” he said.
Team principal Tommi Mäkinen paid tribute to Latvala and the Finland-based team that is supported by Toyota Motorsport GmbH in Germany and Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan.
“It’s very hard to find the words to describe what I am feeling right now: what we are all feeling,” Mäkinen said. “Monte-Carlo was an unexpected result, but this is beyond unexpected.”
While an error on Friday put Latvala’s teammate Juho Hänninen out of contention, he continued to compete and earned valuable points.
The next stop on the World Rally Championship is in the high altitude of Rally Mexico from March 9-12, which features hot weather and dirt roads.