Double points finish for Toyota in ultra-tough Rally Argentina

Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hänninen both survived car-breaking conditions on Rally Argentina to net valuable points in the fifth round of the 2017 World Rally Championship.

After four days of action, Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila finished fifth, two places ahead of team-mates Juho Hänninen and Kaj Lindström.

Latvala, who remains in second place in the WRC drivers’ championship, said: “Our car is very tough, we can say that for sure, and we certainly improved the performance compared to the last gravel round in Mexico.

“The most important thing was that we kept our consistent run of points that we’ve had since Monte-Carlo, so the championship stays open. It’s incredible, but in all my career I don’t think I’ve ever been this close to the front after just five rallies. Now I’m looking forward to the next test and the next rally, so that we can keep on making the car better.”

The Finn had been fastest in the preliminary shakedown and after last Thursday’s opening stage his Toyota Yaris WRC was placed fifth, with Hanninen in tenth position.

Day two was acknowledged by all the leading competitors as exceptionally tough, with the conditions claiming some notable retirements. Latvala posted a series of top-three stage times before losing half a minute on the leaders due to a puncture with two stages still to run. Hänninen then decided to play it safe to keep both cars in play.

Day three was the longest of the event in terms of stage miles. Latvala had to contend with a broken damper, leading to his windscreen breaking as he took a water jump. Hänninen, meanwhile, was hampered by a recurring loss of power. In spite of these niggles, they brought the cars safely home in fifth and tenth place prior to the event’s last leg.

Both tackled Sunday’s final three stages, including the famous high altitude tests of El Condor and Giulio Cesare, without further problems.

The result keeps Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT third in the manufacturers’ championship. The event was won by Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville in an exceptionally close finish, just 0.7 seconds ahead of Ford driver Elfyn Evans.

The next round of the WRC is Rally Portugal (8-21 May), in which the team will run three Yaris WRC, marking the season debut of Esapekka Lappi. This is another gravel event, so the team will be able to put lessons learned from Argentina into practice immediately.

Provisional final result, Rally Argentina:

1 Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 3h 38m 10.6s
2 Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt Ford Fiesta WRC + 0.7s
3 Ott Tanak / Martin Jarveoja Ford Fiesta WRC + 29.9s
4 Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia Ford Fiesta WRC + 1m 24.7s
5 Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila Toyota Yaris WRC + 1m 48.1s
6 Hayden Paddon / John Kennard Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC + 7m 42.7s
7 Juho Hänninen / Kaj Lindström Toyota Yaris WRC + 11m 16.9s
8 Dani Sordo / Marc Marti Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC + 14m 44.1s
9 Mads Ostberg / Ola Floene Ford Fiesta WRC + 15m 11.3s
10 Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson Skoda Fabia R5 +17m 32.1s

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after Rally Argentina:

1 Sébastien Ogier 102
2 Jari-Matti Latvala 86
3 Thierry Neuville 84
4 Ott Tanak 66
5 Dani Sordo 51
6 Elfyn Evans 42
7 Craig Breen 33
8 Hayden Paddon 33
9 Kris Meeke 27
10 Juho Hänninen 15

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after Rally Argentina:

1 M-Sport World Rally Team 162
2 Hyundai Motorsport 140
3 Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 99
4 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 71

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