Toyota Gazoo Racing had a great end to the 2021 Rally Finland as Elfyn Evans took his fifth career WRC victory which was made all the more sweeter given that it was on home soil for the Finnish-based manufacturer. Speaking following the event, team founder Akio Toyoda commented saying:
“In this 2021 season, we were supposed to have four home rallies: in Japan where the Yaris is developed and produced, in Estonia where the team has a factory, and twice in Finland where the team is based. We got second place in the first one, the Arctic Rally, and Kalle and Jonne won the second one in Estonia. This Rally Finland takes place in Jyväskylä, where the team is located, so it’s the ‘real’ home event. Since Rally Japan has been cancelled, we definitely wanted to win this rally.
I imagine not only the crews and Jari-Matti but everybody in the team had more pressure than usual. Elfyn and Scott did a great job under the circumstances and brought lots of smiles to the fans in our hometown. I feel we were able to give back to the place where the Yaris WRC was born and to the roads which made it strong.
I’m grateful to Elfyn, Scott, and the whole team. Elfyn and Scott have never retired so far this season and have always driven through to the Power Stage. The Yaris WRC has certainly become stronger thanks to that and I really appreciate it.
Seb and Julien secured important points with their consistent driving despite the difficult road order. I hope Seb will show us his strong drive in the last two events to finish the season in the best way.
Kalle and Takamoto were really looking forward to drive on their familiar Finnish roads, but it turned out to be a regrettable event for them. However, they both learned from the experience and they will bring smiles to the local fans there in the future.
There are only two events left in the season. The team will come together led by Jari-Matti and make it through to the end. I really hope our fans and the whole team will all be smiling at the end of the season!
P.S. to Jari-Matti
How was the feeling when you are not holding a champagne bottle on your own? I was thinking of the podium I stood with you on over there three years ago. Like I said before, you were the very first person I sprayed the bottle that Ott handed to me. I was that happy to stand on the podium with you. Now that you are on the management side we probably won’t be on the same podium together anymore, but I’m looking forward to work with you again on site. I really hope the day will come soon. We can negotiate which one of us climb up to the podium when the time comes!
P.S. to Esapekka and Janne
Although the colour was different with us, I was happy that you could drive the Yaris WRC again in your home country. When we returned to the WRC in 2017, it was you two who brought the team’s second victory at Rally Finland. Unfortunately you missed the podium this time, but you still showed us a great run. Congratulations! I’m looking forward to hearing how you felt driving the Yaris WRC again after three years.”
Evans took victory 14.1s ahead of Hyundai Motorsports Ott Tanak and Craig Breen following an extremely strong rally for the team and speaking following the action the Welshman said:
“It feels pretty special to win for the team on its home rally. After a difficult rally for me in Estonia on roads with similar characteristics, it feels really good and especially the way we managed to do it. We made some changes to the car in our test and I found great confidence with it pretty early on Friday. I’m really happy and thankful for the team for all their work, it’s been a great weekend. I feel fortunate to have been able to drive this car on these roads, and to take the win is extra special. It’s a positive result in terms of the championship. The drivers’ title is still a long shot for me, but we’ll keep giving our best on every event.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal) commented saying:
“To win Rally Finland is always very special and even more so for our team, so we are really happy to win here again. The competition was stronger here this year, but the performance of Elfyn shows that we had a fast car. He was not necessarily one of the favourites to win but he proved that he was the fastest driver this weekend. He did an incredible job. In the Oittila stage in the darkness on Friday night he found another gear and showed his confidence, and after that he was able to take the lead and control it. He can be very proud of his victory. In the drivers’ championship it’s now only between Seb and Elfyn, and the manufacturers’ championship is looking very good for us.”
Championship leader Sébastien Ogier commented on the event where he finished in fifth place saying:
“Today for us was all about trying to get some more points in the Power Stage. Unfortunately, we had a problem just after the start of the stage, so we couldn’t set a good time. This was not our rally but that’s how it is sometimes. We have to move on. We are still in a good position in the championship and I am really looking forward to Spain and to asphalt. I know what I have to do there. Elfyn did very well this weekend, so well done to him.”
It was a disappointing rally for Kalle Rovanpera who retired from the event earlier in the weekend and resumed and finished the event in 34th place and speaking following the action the Finn commented saying:
“For us we just had to drive through the stages today. The team did a great job fixing the car yesterday but the damage was quite big and the car wasn’t a hundred percent, so we had to take care not to jump or stress the car too much. I also had pain in my back from yesterday. So we just drove through to be there to score some manufacturers’ points if it was needed. Congratulations to Elfyn, he did an amazing job. For me this was a difficult weekend where we had been expecting a lot, but I’m looking forward to Spain.”