Toyota wins WRC title
Jari-Matti Latvala's victory in Rally Australia in his Yaris WRC gave Toyota Gazoo Racing more than enough points to win the 2018 World Rally Manufacturers' Championship, 19 years after the team's last success.
Latvala's win came after most of Toyota's rivals struck trouble on the slippery roads made slick by rain, with driver's championship contenders Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak crashing out with only a couple of stages to go.
Toyota finished the 13 round championship which started at Monte Carlo in January on 368 points, 27 more than Hyundai, whose only bright point was provided by Geraldine's Hayden Paddon who finished second.
Tommi Mäkinen, Team Principal, expressed his joy: “It’s an absolutely amazing feeling today. This was the toughest final round of a season that I can remember. Ott’s retirement so near the end was a big disappointment, but it was absolutely brilliant that Jari-Matti could win again. Esapekka also helped us score the points we needed.”
The winning driver Jari-Matti Latvala (car 7) said: “I am so happy to win again. It was quite a relief after such a long time! The conditions today were incredibly demanding, and it would have been very easy to go off the road. Everything went my way today, and I am sorry for Ott that his rally ended in the way it did. I was very excited and nervous at the start of the final stage, but we managed to do it. To win the manufacturers’ title is fantastic. I am so proud of the team and what they have created. Everybody has worked so hard and they deserve this reward!”
Toyota last won the team's championship in 1999 when it used the Corolla as its WRC car. It also took the makes title in 1993 and 1994 with the Celica 4WD Turbo.
The team had only returned to the World Rally Championship at the start of 2017 after a 17-year absence from the sport, where it concentrated its efforts in Formula One and more recently the World Endurance Championship for sportscars.
Ott Tänak (driver car 8): “Congratulations to everybody in the team. They have done a great job. Personally, I can be disappointed about how it ended for me today, but in general I am really happy: I have the strongest car in the championship and strong people around me. It was a great battle all year; we were always trying our best. I went off in a really tricky stage with a lot of muddy places. I think it didn’t change too much in either championship though. I am really happy with my season and we will keep pushing next year.”
Esapekka Lappi (driver car 9): “It is nice to end this part of my career in this way, by helping the team to win the manufacturers’ title. I really wanted to finish on top but at least we had a good rally where we were back on the pace.”
Tommi Mäkinen recapped on an outstanding WRC season for Toyota Gazoo Racing: “We started this project three-and-a-half years ago and we have developed much faster than we imagined. Last year we were here to learn and to gather data. In the second half of this season we were able to find a lot of improvements with the car. This is the result of the huge effort from everybody in the team, and I am sure this success will just further motivate us all to continue improving in 2019.”
The driver's championship which Tänak had a mathematical chance of taking if he won the event was won for the sixth consecutive time by Sébastien Ogier, who finished fifth.
Rally Australia, Round 13, World Rally Championship
- J-M Latvala, M Anttila (Toyota Yaris) 2 hrs 59 mins 52.0 secs
- H Paddon, S Marshall (Hyundai i20) 32.5 secs behind
- M Ostberg, T Eriksen (Citroen C3) 52.5
- E Lappi, J Ferm (Toyota Yaris) 1.02.3
- S Ogier, J Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta) 2.30.8
WRC Manufacturers' Points
- Toyota, 368
- Hyundai, 341
- Ford, 324
- Citroen, 237
WRC Drivers' Points
- Ogier, 219
- Neuville, 201
- Tänak, 181
- Latvala, 128
- Lappi, 126
8. Paddon, 73