Defending FIA World Rally Championship manufacturers champions, Toyota Gazoo Racing led the way on the opening night of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship season in Monte Carlo on Thursday.

Ott Tanak ended the opening day in first place with a time of 26m 33.0s and speaking following the action he said:

It was a tough start to the rally tonight, as we were expecting. There were some extremely tricky and changeable conditions on the first stage, but I had a really good feeling in the car. It was still quite easy to feel the grip changes and this gave me good confidence. The second one was mostly dry asphalt which was a challenge with a mix of tyres, but we had a good run. Overall I still think our tyre choice was the right one. Tomorrow will be a long day and we will be expecting more of the usual Monte challenges.

Jari Matti Latvala ended the opening day in fifth place overall, 46.4s behind Tanak and speaking following the action he said:

“It was very challenging conditions this evening, in the darkness with a mix of ice and damp patches. When the conditions are difficult like this the time differences can be quite big. In the first stage I lost a lot of time as I wasn’t that confident. I didn’t have those type of conditions in my test, so I was missing the feeling. But we got through and that’s the most important thing. Tomorrow is another day and things can change very quickly in this event, so we need to be patient.

It was a great opening day for Kris Meeke who returns to full time World Rally Championship competition as the Northern Irishman ended the day in seventh place.

Meeke who ended the day in seventh place overall, 53.8s behind Ott Tanak commented by saying:

It was a tricky start to the rally with changing conditions, but I felt really confident with the car, I had a good feeling. On the second stage it was drier but it still felt nice to drive. Then for some reason we got a puncture. I don’t believe we hit anything. But we can’t let that get us down so early on a Rallye Monte-Carlo. I’m enjoying it and I’m confident in the car, so let’s see what the rest of the weekend brings.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC Team Principal Tommi Makinen said:

“It was a brilliant first stage tonight for both Ott and Kris with the two fastest times. I think Ott has taken a lot of confidence from that. Unfortunately, Kris then had a puncture, but I think he is also feeling very good with his new car. Jari-Matti was a little bit careful, but the conditions in the dark were very tricky. There is a long way to go and tomorrow will be a difficult day. It is always far easier to take on these stages in the daylight.

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