TORONTO, Ontario – April 24th, 2023 – Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin have returned to the top step of the podium with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team, taking victory at the Croatia Rally.
Together with their fellow podium finishers, Evans and Martin dedicated the result to their friend and fellow competitor Craig Breen, who tragically lost his life in the build-up to the event. Martin was previously co-driver to Breen between 2014 and 2018, claiming their first WRC podiums together.
A well-managed drive enabled Evans and Martin to claim their fifth win with TGR-WRT and their first since Rally Finland in 2021. The asphalt stages around Zagreb proved to be challenging once again, with frequent surface changes and a lot of mud and gravel being dragged onto the road, but Evans was able to find the right balance between caution and speed.
After gaining the lead on Saturday morning, he could increase his advantage in tricky conditions in the evening to 25.4 seconds, and extended that margin over half a minute in the first of Sunday’s four tests. This allowed a more cautious approach to the final stages, with a winning margin of 27s.
Team-mates Kalle Rovanperä and Sébastien Ogier completed the top five, recovering after hitting trouble in the same place on Friday’s second stage when heavy impacts in a compression in the road forced them to stop and change a wheel.
Both showed strong pace thereafter while competing closely with each other for position. Rovanperä and co-driver Jonne Halttunen won six stages in total to finish fourth, with Ogier and navigator Vincent Landais setting seven fastest times across the weekend as they took fifth.
Rovanperä and Ogier took second and third respectively in the rally-ending Power Stage. Ogier and Evans are now joint leaders of the drivers’ championship, one point ahead of Rovanperä.
As a mark of solidarity ahead of this event, only two drivers per team were nominated as eligible to score manufacturers’ championship points. With the results of Rovanperä and Ogier taken into account, TGR-WRT has a lead of 29 points.
Takamoto Katsuta rounded out the top six finishers in his GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID supported by the TGR WRC Challenge Program.
Akio Toyoda (Chairman, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team)
“Just before the Croatia Rally, we lost a driver who was our strong rival and also a precious friend of ours. I would like to extend my deepest condolences to Craig Breen, his family and the Hyundai Motorsport team.
I think all his fellow drivers and co-drivers competed thinking of him this weekend. In such a weekend it was great that Scott, who used to be Craig’s co-driver, stood on the top of the podium. Scott, congratulations.
I thank Elfyn for letting Craig see Scott’s smile. And it was also Elfyn’s first win in a long time. Congratulations, Elfyn! I think he finally found the last piece that he has been looking for. I was really happy to see his smile. I heard that Craig often talked about the importance of enjoying driving, and I believe Elfyn showed that great smile because he truly enjoyed driving this weekend.
For those of us who love rally and who always try to enjoy driving, his accident was a huge shock and a tragic incident. We must come up with and implement all the measures we can so that such a sad accident won’t happen again in the future.
The sounds, smells, and power of running cars, the emotions involving drivers and co-drivers. I feel rallying is a sport that moves people. We hope to continue to deliver such excitement from the actual field of motorsport, and for that we will continue our ever-better car making.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“It has been a hard week for the rally community and the most important thing here was to have a safe rally and a good competition as Craig would have wanted. Personally, I feel that Elfyn and Scott were a great pairing to win this event in these circumstances. They were friends with Craig, and Scott was previously a co-driver of Craig and they reached their first podium together. It was not easy for them to come to this event but they did a fantastic job and they deserve the victory: I think that it means a lot to them to win again. It was also nice to have Kalle and Seb bringing some good points for the team after their problems on Friday.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“It has not been a great weekend in terms of result but in the end we did what we could. It was a great fight with Seb and to come out on top is not so bad. Of course, we don’t want to be fighting for fourth, but that’s all we could really do after Friday. We didn’t start the weekend well; we made a small mistake with the setup, but after that the car was good so thank you to the team. We tried to push hard on the Power Stage and got some good points at the end of the weekend.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“Obviously we have been working for another win like this for a long time but that doesn’t mean so much right at this moment. It’s been a tough week for everybody and the whole WRC family can be proud of how everyone has come together and paid tribute to Craig. Competition went on as usual, as he would have wanted. It seemed a bit of a tall order to win here with our road position on Friday with the amount of dirt on the road, but some others hit trouble and that gave us an opportunity to fight for the win. Scott and myself promised Craig’s family that we would enjoy this weekend and we’ve been able to do that. Now it’s all over, our thoughts turn back to them.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17)
“It has been a tough week. From a sporting point of view, we had the pace to do much better but things did not go our way this weekend. That’s motorsport sometimes. It was quite difficult today but I have to say that Kalle was really fast and I didn’t have the same pace as him on this final day. Of course, the Power Stage was still a target but we made a wrong decision with the tyre strategy and I had a lot of moments in the stage, so I was glad to cross the finish line and still bring some points to the team.”
FINAL CLASSIFICATION, CROATIA RALLY
1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 2h50m54.s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +27.0s
3 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +58.6s
4 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m18.3s
5 Sébastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m28.0s
6 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +2m22.5s
7 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Nicolas Gilsoul (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +4m22.6s
8 Yohan Rossel/Arnaud Dunand (Citroën C3 Rally2) +7m51.3s
9 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +8m07.4s
10 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +9m16.7s
Rally de Portugal (May 12-13) begins a run of consecutive events on gravel. Based in Matosinhos near Porto in the north of the country, it features classic stages on sandy and rocky roads.
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