Jari-Matti Latvala secured Toyota‘s first win on their return to the WRC with an excellent victory on Rally Sweden.
Latvala was fastest on all three of the days stages to win Toyota’s first rally since 1999 by 29 seconds from over M-Sport’s Ott Tanak.
Latvala may have been fortuitous in gaining the lead after Thierry Neuville’s crash but once in front, Latvala extended the lead from 4 seconds to 29.
This has been a dream start for the new Toyota team run by fellow Finn & four-times World Rally Champion Tommi Makinen and propels Latvala into the championship lead ahead of Sébastien Ogier.
He also grabbed maximum points on the power stage for good measure.
“It’s amazing! A new team, a new car, our second rally and we’ve won. I have no words to describe it – I’m so emotional”, an emotional Latvala said at the finish.
Second place was a great result for Tanak but after a difficult first stage of the day had to settle for second place.
He was still half a minute ahead of his illustrious team-mate Ogier in the standings though.
The Frenchman lost time after a spin in stage 16 and decided to go for maximum points in the power stage but ended up second fastest.
This has meant he has lost the lead of the championship to Latvala.
Neuville Rues Another Lost Rally Win
Third fastest on the power stage was a dejected Neuville.
For the second rally in a row, the Belgian Hyundai driver dominated, but for the second rally in a row, his charge derailed by a incident of the final stage of the day 2.
Neuville only has 8 points of the board, both gained from powerstage results, instead of a possible 58 he could have left with.
Dani Sordo managed to gain some good points for Hyundai however, with an impressive fourth, feeling much happier in the car than he was at Rallye Monte Carlo.
Hayden Paddon meanwhile struggled throughout the event, especially with power steering troubles on day 2, to come home seventh.
Kris Meeke had another rally to forget for Citroen.
The Northern Irishman had been lying in fifth place until he put the Citroen in a snowbank on stage 14 and lost nine minutes.
He did, however, manage to secure two vital points on the power stage test.
His team-mate Craig Breen had another solid fifth place finish, this time in the new C3 WRC.
The Irishman had an error-free run and thoroughly enjoyed his time aboard the new car.
Behind him in sixth was DMACK entry of Elfyn Evans who struggled with setup issues throughout day three.
Cook Excluded from WRC3 due to Wrong Seat Brackets
In WRC2, local hero Pontus Tidemand had a dream win in his works Skoda Fabia R5 and finished eighth overall.
The Swede was pushed hard on the final day by M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen who whittled the gap down to 50 seconds but it was not enough to trouble Tidemand.
Suninen in turn managed to increase the lead over third place runner Ole Veiby Christian to 15 seconds having stood at 5 at the beginning of the day.
Next up came the two remaining M-Sport Fiesta runners of Éric Camilli and Gus Greensmith, the young Mancunian turning in an excellent performance on his first rally with the team.
In WRC Trophy Valeriy Gorban took an easy victory after his only competitor, Lorenzo Bertelli, retired from the event with engine problems on day two.
In WRC3 there was heartbreak for Louise Cook after her car fell foul of the scrutineers.
Cook, who only managed to compete after a successful crowd-funding campaign, was disqualified due to the spare seat brackets did not comply with the Ford Fiesta R2’s Homologation.
She had been the only competitor in the class.
Latvala meanwhile believes that his victory is the perfect base to build upon for the rest of the season.
“We are at a good level – now we go forward and it gets more difficult,” he said
“The championship is interesting. Mexico is next and we have to work hard but I’m very motivated to keep the fight on!”