TOY­OTA’S MAIDEN WRC WIN

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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 in early Fe­bru­ary.

Jari-Matti Lat­vala in the new 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 now 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 Jan­uary’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.”

Kiwi Hay­den Paddon and co-driver John Ken­nard ended up sev­enth over­all af­ter los­ing time on the Satur­day when the power steer­ing unit on his Hyundai i20 world rally car failed.

“To get a few points among all our dif­fi­cul­ties this week­end at least gets us on the board,” Hay­den said af­ter the rally.

Sev­enth place plus one power stage power point puts Paddon ninth on the WRC driv­ers’ cham­pi­onship points-ta­ble af­ter two rounds of the 2017 WRC.

Round three is in Mex­ico, 9-12 March.

Photo: Toy­ota

Works Toy­ota driver Jari-Matti Lat­vala on his way to vic­tory in the new Yaris WRC car in Swe­den.

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