The new TOYOTA Yaris WRC team secures a double podium victory in Monte Carlo.

New drivers Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans finished second and third respectively at the first event of the season – Rallye Monte-Carlo. Rookie driver Kalle Rovanperä also delivered a strong performance.

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Unpredictable weather from the start

The first two night-time stages of the event proved challenging. Initially the race took place on dry asphalt, during which Ogier achieved the fastest time, whilst Evans was merely 1.9 seconds behind him and Rovanperä set the fifth best time – ahead of a seven-time winner of the event.

The second stage brought with it snow and ice, however the team wasn’t deterred. Ogier still managed to record the second-best time and Evans was fourth fastest.

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Ogier maintains a strong position

Day two proved to be the longest, including two loops of three stages in addition to various weather conditions such as ice, snow, rain and mud. The team were feeling positive however with Ogier breezing through the first two stages of the afternoon loop, ending the day 1.2 seconds ahead of Evans.

Rovanperä continued to demonstrate his skilled abilities, improving his times and placing sixth overall. It was the 19-year old’s first full experience of competing at the rallying’s highest level.

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Evans fights back

Snow and ice were finally starting to melt on the third day of the competition. Ogier continued to dominate the race, increasing his advantage from 1.2 seconds to 2.8 seconds in the opening test. However Evans fought back, impressively reclaiming the advantage winning an icy SS10 – 7.6 seconds quicker than the other drivers. Ogier and Evans were neck and neck during the afternoon loop before Evans took a risk which paid off, putting him 4.9 seconds ahead of his team mate.

As well as Rovanperä, Toyota GAZOO Racing Rally Challenge Program driver Takamoto Katsuta was also competing, placing seventh in a fourth Yaris WRC.

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Two spots on the podium

The final day provided an intense three-way fight between Evans, Ogier and a rival. At the start of the day Evans was in the lead, however their third-placed rival was only 1.5 seconds behind and soon closed the gap with a string of fastest times.

Ogier eventually surpassed Evans during the Power Stage, missing out on the fastest time by 0.012 seconds. He placed second overall along with his co-driver Julian Ingrassia – a strong bid for a seventh world title this season. Evans and co-driver Scott Martin secured the third spot with the latter achieving his best ever Rallye Monte-Carlo finish.

New driver Rovanperä, the youngest ever full-time factory driver in the WRC, finished fifth, along with his co-driver Jonne Halttunen, rounding off a superb performance in demanding conditions. Katsuta came in seventh – his best finish to-date, whilst also ensuring four Toyota Yaris WRCs made the top seven.

Up next is Rally Sweden – the WRC’s only full winter event, held on snow and ice. It is here that the Toyota Yaris WRC team had its first victory in 2017 followed by a second win in 2019.