Toyota GAZOO Racing World Rally Team commenced the 2024 FIA World Rally Championship season on a high note, securing a double podium finish at Rallye Monte-Carlo, with Sébastien Ogier in second place and Elfyn Evans in third.
Ogier and Evans engaged in an exhilarating battle for supremacy throughout the event, contending with a challenging mix of conditions on the typically drier asphalt roads of the French Alps.
Ogier seized the lead spectacularly on Saturday afternoon, marking his 700th stage win in his WRC career. Heading into the final day on Sunday, he trailed first-placed Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) by a mere 3.3 seconds.
Despite a valiant effort to secure another victory in Monte Carlo, Ogier and co-driver Vincent Landais settled for second place, finishing 16.1 seconds behind the triumphant Neuville.
Evans and co-driver Scott Martin made an impressive start to their season, claiming an early lead that they maintained until Saturday morning. Ending the penultimate day in third, Evans continued to push hard on Sunday, securing second place in the day’s separate classification and fourth in the rally-ending Power Stage.
This effort earned him 21 points, securing third place in the overall standings. Ogier, with 24 points, claimed second place.
Takamoto Katsuta faced challenges on Friday morning, sliding wide on an icy corner and losing five minutes. However, he showcased a strong pace, recovering to seventh place overall and claiming third in the Power Stage.
With second and third place in the overall results, Sunday classification, and Power Stage, TGR-WRT leads the manufacturers’ championship by a single point.
The GR Yaris Rally2 made its competitive WRC debut, with three of the four entered cars completing the full rally distance in the hands of customer teams. Sami Pajari and Enni Mälkönen (Printsport) were the best-placed crew, finishing 12th overall and fifth in class RC2.
In reflections on the event, Akio Toyoda, TGR-WRT Chairman, emphasized the significance of the team’s participation in WRC for making ever-better cars and bringing smiles to people.
He expressed gratitude to the teams and drivers, acknowledging the new options for customers, including the GR Yaris Sébastien Ogier Edition, GR Yaris Kalle Rovanperä Edition, and GR Yaris Rally2.
Jari-Matti Latvala, Team Principal, highlighted the overall positive weekend, recognizing the strong team performance and the exciting battle for victory. He commended Elfyn Evans for his solid pace and strategic approach.
Quotes from drivers Elfyn Evans and Sébastien Ogier reflected their determination, with Evans expressing satisfaction with the weekend’s performance and Ogier acknowledging the challenging week and the exciting fight on the challenging Monte Carlo rally.
Takamoto Katsuta, while expressing disappointment with his mistake on Friday, was pleased with the recovery and additional points earned on Sunday and in the Power Stage.
The provisional final classification of Rallye Monte-Carlo saw Thierry Neuville securing the top spot, followed by Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans in second and third, respectively.
The 2024 FIA World Rally Championship standings after round 1 showed Thierry Neuville leading the drivers’ championship with 30 points, followed by Sébastien Ogier with 24 points and Elfyn Evans with 21 points.
In the manufacturers’ championship, the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team leads with 46 points, ahead of the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team with 45 points and the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team with 19 points.