December 4, 2023
Automotive Sport

Toyota Gazoo Racing wins manufacturers’ title at Rally Chile

TGR-WRT has won the title three years in a row

The Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team (TGR-WRT) has retained its crown as manufacturers’ champions and guaranteed another clean sweep of FIA World Rally Championship titles in 2023 after an exciting finale at the Rally Chile.

Elfyn Evans claimed an overall podium finish in third place on the rally’s final day, just ahead of teammates Kalle Rovanperä and Takamoto Katsuta.

This, allied with Rovanperä and Evans achieving a one-two on the rally-ending Power Stage to claim the maximum available bonus points for the team, was enough to secure the manufacturers’ title with two rounds still to go.

This is the fourth time, and third year in a row, that TGR-WRT has won the title since its formation and is the seventh makes’ crown won by Toyota since 1993.

Guaranteed position

TGR-WRT is now guaranteed its fifth consecutive drivers’ and co-drivers champions. The efforts of Rovanperä and Evans on the Power Stage ensure that only they and their respective navigators, Jonne Halttunen and Scott Martin, can win this year’s titles.

Rovanperä and Halttunen lead Evans and Martin by 31 points, with 60 available from the last two events.

The return to Chile for the first time since 2019 was far from straightforward, presenting teams and drivers with many new roads and some different conditions, with the event now taking place in spring rather than autumn.

Evans was in the mix for the rally win before he and his teammates suffered unexpectedly high tyre wear on extremely abrasive stages on Saturday.

He continued to push for a podium place and was rewarded when another driver ahead was caught out by the tricky roads in Sunday’s penultimate test.

Bounce back

As points leader, Rovanperä had lost more time on Friday after having to run first on roads that were far drier and looser than four years ago. But he would bounce back on the day of his 23rd birthday with his sixth Power Stage win of the season, to only concede two points of his pre-event advantage over Evans.

Katsuta and co-driver Aaron Johnston – who have contributed to the manufacturers’ title success after stepping up into the main TGR-WRT line-up this year to share a car with Sébastien Ogier and Vincent Landais – ensured that all three of the team’s cars finished in the top five at the end of a demanding weekend.

Akio Toyoda (TGR-WRT Chair) said: “To all the team members of TGR-WRT, congratulations on winning the manufacturers’ title!

“This year, Elfyn was the driving force behind the manufacturers’ title with six podiums, including two wins out of 11 events so far. Elfyn and Scott, thank you for getting third place, which became the deciding factor in concluding the title today. And Kalle and Jonne’s three victories were, of course, an immense help as well. I hope Elfyn and Kalle will drive without regret for the remaining two rallies in Central Europe and Japan. I am confident the team will prepare the best cars, so I expect you two will give it your all.

“As a team, we secured the title in the 11th round, one round earlier than last year. I think it says that the team has become even stronger. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank Jari-Matti for continuing to work with everybody to strengthen the team after winning the manufacturers’ title in his first year as the Team Principal.”

Patience pays off

Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal) said: “I am thrilled with how this rally ended for us. It wasn’t the easiest because Saturday was demanding, and this morning, we thought it would not be easy to get on the podium. However, it shows that you must be patient in rallying and keep going until the end because surprises can always come. I’m proud of the team and crews for all our work during the season. Two rounds before the end of the season are the earliest we’ve ever won the manufacturers’ title as TGR-WRT.

“The competition is hard, and the cars are close, but I think we have made the difference with our reliability and bringing the cars home without problems, as we did here. We are excited to see which of our two crews fighting for the drivers’ and co-drivers’ titles will succeed over the last two rounds.”

Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69) said: “It feels good to have helped the team secure the manufacturers’ title. To confirm it here in Chile with two rounds to go is an outstanding achievement, and it feels nice. This was not the most accessible weekend for us, as we were a bit handicapped with the starting position on Friday and didn’t make the best decisions on Saturday.

“Today, it was still tricky with quite a lot of road cleaning, even on the second pass. But we had a good plan to save the tyres and push hard on the Power Stage. The quick time came, showing we had the speed, and it was good to get those points.”

More potential

Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33) said: “Overall, the weekend was perhaps not what we hoped for, and I think there was potential for more. We didn’t quite get it all right this time, even though we had some good speed. But I think we can be relatively happy with our podium result.

“The best news is that the team has clinched the manufacturers’ title. It’s an honour to be a part of the team, and it’s great to reward everybody for all their hard work. We probably needed to close a bit more on Kalle this weekend in the drivers’ championship than we did, but at least the fight is still alive.”

Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18) said: “It has been a very demanding weekend, but I want to say a big congratulations to everyone in the team for winning the manufacturers’ title. So many people are doing such great work during the season. I greatly thank them because we are always happy to drive such a strong and fast car.

“The stages here in Chile this weekend were nice but very difficult. I felt quite good on Friday afternoon, but we struggled greatly with the aggressive surface on Saturday. It wasn’t easy, but we understood how to improve for the future, so it was a good experience.”

Provisional final classification, Rally Chile:

1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid) 3h06m38.1s
2 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid) +42.1s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 Hybrid) +1m06.9s
4 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 Hybrid) +2m11.0s
5 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 Hybrid) +4m41.5s
6 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +8m18.5s
7 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +8m44.3s
8 Sami Pajari/Enni Mälkönen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +9m20.6s
9 Yohan Rossel/Arnaud Dunand (Citroën C3 Rally2) +9m53.9s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +10m08.2s

The season’s penultimate round on October 26-29, 2023, is a brand-new event for the WRC: the Central European Rally, taking place on demanding asphalt roads in Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria.

Featured image: The Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team at the Rally Chile manufacturers’ title ceremony. Image: TGR-WRT

Last Updated on 2 months by Arnold Pinto

Middle East News 247

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