Toyota followed up its Rallye Monte Carlo podium finish in January with outright victory in Sweden today to celebrate its return to the FIA World Rally Championship. Jari-Matti Latvala topped the final order ahead of Ford M-Sport/Michelin’s Ott Tanak and Sébastien Ogier, while Skoda/Michelin ended up on top again in WRC2.
Ahead of the 2017 Rally Sweden, Toyota’s most recent WRC win had been Rally China, in 1999, but today saw the Japanese firm open a new winning chapter in its history on what was only the second world class appearance of the Yaris WRC/Michelin.
Success for Latvala took the Finn’s personal score to 17 world class victories and his fourth in Sweden since 2008. He was joined on Sunday’s podium by Ford M-Sport’s Ott Tanak and Sébastien Ogier who put him under significant pressure towards the end.
For Ogier, it was always going to be a tough struggle because of his unfavourable start order on Friday and Saturday, while Tanak’s bid took a blow due to an early gearbox issue, although he managed to power his way onto Friday evening’s provisional podium with three consecutive stage wins.
As in Monaco, the outcome was pretty much settled on the last stage of Day 2 when the early pace-setter Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC/Michelin) damaged his car on the Karlstad super-special while leading by the handsome margin of 43 seconds.
It was another difficult outing for Citroën-Total Abu Dhabi who saw Kris Meeke spend several minutes stuck in a snow bank after figuring inside the top five. His team-mate Craig Breen (C3 WRC/Michelin) reached the finish in fifth spot.
Skoda Motorsport and Michelin dominated in WRC2 again, this time with local star Pontus Tidemand who left Finn Teemu Suninen (Ford/Michelin) and Norway’s Ole-Christian Veiby (Skoda/Michelin) to battle for second and third places.
The weather was ideal all weekend, with negative temperatures and icy/snowy conditions in Norway’s Finnskog and Sweden’s Värmland regions.
Thanks to the outstanding grip delivered by his studded Michelin X-Ice North 3 tyres, Tanak established a new average speed record for a WRC stage after covering SS9 (31.60km) at an average of 137.8kph (previous record: 136.9kph/Poland/2014).