Toyota celebrated victory just
two rallies into its comeback following a 17-year absence from the FIA World
Rally Championship with Jari-Matti
Latvala winning in Sweden. It was the Finn’s 17th career victory, but one
of his most emotional. He faced a season on the sidelines after his Volkswagen
team withdrew from the sport at the end of last season, before finally joining
the Japanese manufacturer in a late deal, a WRC press statement said.
Latvala began the final leg
with a slender 3.8sec lead over Ott
Tänak after long-time leader Thierry Neuville crashed the previous night.
He won all three snow and ice-covered speed tests in his Yaris World Rally Car
to extend the margin to 29.2sec.
He claimed maximum bonus
points from the Power Stage and, after finishing second in the season-opening
Rallye Monte-Carlo, holds a four-point lead in the drivers’ standings.
It is the first time any
driver other than four-time champion Sébastien Ogier has led the championship
since February 2014.
“It’s amazing. A new team, a new car, our
second rally and we’re winning. I have no words to describe it, I’m so
emotional. We’re at a good level but now we go forward and it gets more
difficult. Mexico is next up and I’m really motivated for the championship,” he
Tänak, driving a Ford Fiesta,
had the upper hand on Latvala the day before the final when he closed in. The
Estonian was unhappy with his car’s handling on the final day and after
conceding seven seconds in the opening special stage, he settled for second,
matching his career-best result.
Team-mate Ogier was also in the victory fight but a spin in the first corner
of the opening test ended his hopes and he finished 30.3sec behind Tänak.
Dani Sordo was the top Hyundai finisher in fourth following
Neuville’s accident. The Spaniard finished 39.7sec ahead of Craig Breen, who struggled to perfect
his Citroën C3’s set-up but banked good points from a solid debut in the car.
Elfyn Evans was sixth in another Fiesta, despite losing nearly a
minute with an engine misfire in the opening stage. The Welshman made repairs
and the car was restored to full health for the final two tests.
Hayden Paddon was just 4.6sec
behind in a Hyundai i20 Coupe, with Stéphane Lefebvre, WRC 2 winner Pontus
Tidemand and Teemu Suninen completing the leaderboard.
Neuville eventually finished
13th after restarting, just behind Kris Meeke whose disappointing weekend
culminated with a penultimate stage spin.
The new-era World Rally Cars
take on the challenge of high temperatures and dirt roads for the first time
next month when León hosts round three at Rally Guanajuato Mexico (9 - 12
Results in Sweden
1. FIN J.
2. EST O. TANAK
3. FRA S. OGIER
4. ESP D. SORDO
5. IRL C.
6. GBR E. EVANS
7. NZL H. PADDON
8. FRA S.
9. SWE P.
10. FIN T. SUNINEN
11. NOR O. VEIBY
12. GBR K. MEEKE
13. BEL T.
14. FRA E. CAMILLI
15. NOR M. OSTBERG