TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team has claimed a stunning victory on home territory at Rally Finland, with Esapekka Lappi claiming his debut victory and Juho Hanninen finishing third: the first time the team has had two cars on the podium. Not only that, but the Yaris WRC led for 22 stages out of 25 in total, claiming 18 stage wins, 13 stage one-two finishes and one stage one-two-three finishes.
Latvala was forced to retire from the lead on Saturday, but returned to action on Sunday and was quickest on three more stages–one of them jointly with Hanninen. He took fourth on the Power Stage to claim two additional championship points at the end of a weekend that will go down in history for the team.
Akio Toyoda (Team Chairman)
“Esapekka Lappi has brought us the best possible outcome on the team’s home rally and I would like to express my appreciation to all our fans for their strong support, as we celebrate this special moment together. Juho Hanninen also achieved his best career result: as our main test driver from the beginning of the project, the Yaris WRC wouldn’t have been born without him. I feel sorry for Jari-Matti Latvala, who was affected by a technical problem, but his driving on the final day showed again that he never gives up and we are so proud of him. For me, Finland is a special event as I visited three years ago, talking with Tommi Makinen about what makes an ever-better car. Then we started this project, with the idea of learning more about making ever-better cars through rallying. Here, I believe our Yaris WRC showed significant performance because it was developed on roads in Finland. So, it was a really touching moment–watching the event on television from Japan–when I listened to both the Finnish and Japanese national anthems on the podium. Now we will keep on learning throughout the year. The biggest challenges are still to come. Thank you to all the fans. I look forward to your continued support.”
Tommi Makinen (Team Principal)
“It has been almost perfect; the problem for Jari-Matti on Saturday was really the only disappointment. I have to thank our team. They have put the maximum in to make a step forward on this rally. We were able to supply our drivers with a very fast car and the drivers did their very best job. Congratulations to Esapekka and Juho in particular. I still remember my first win here, and I had strong feelings that Esapekka could do the same as I did 23 years ago.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 10)
“Luckily after our problem yesterday we were able to come back today and it started really well, winning the first three stages. We had a good run on the Power Stage but the road was more slippery for me than the drivers who followed, so two points was the maximum. Even though it could have been even better, it’s a great team result with Esapekka taking his first win and Juho his first podium, well done to both of them.”
Juho Hanninen (Driver car 11)
“It’s been an amazing weekend and I’m very happy with this result. Of course, I tried to get second, but we made a few mistakes. I’m still very happy to be on the podium for the first time in my career. Thank you to the team and this fantastic car that made it possible.”
Esapekka Lappi (Driver car 12)
“I’m not normally an emotional person but this is amazing. What a rally. I could never have imagined that we could get a result like this, so it’s a very big surprise. I have to say a big thank you to the team because they have built such a great car in a very short period.”
The next round of the World Rally Championship is Rallye Deutschland in Germany from August 17-20, as the series returns to asphalt. This event is actually made up of three former national rallies rolled into one, and that’s apparent from the very different nature of each day’s stages. The rally begins with tight and twisty vineyard stages before moving to the notorious Baumholder military ranges on Saturday, featuring challenging concrete roads. The final day is made up of more classic European asphalt stages, with wider and faster roads. The weather can often be variable all weekend.