Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Tommi Mäkinen has apologized to his driver Sébastien Ogier after an engine failure ended his Rally Turkey prematurely and cost him the World Rally Championship points lead.
Ogier had been running third, and in contention for second place with Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, when he stopped on Sunday’s penultimate stage after spotting flames emerging from his Yaris WRC’s hood.
That meant the six-time world champion failed to score and was leapfrogged in the standings by his Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans, who won the rally.
“Sorry to Seb for the engine fail – the engine trouble that was destroying his dream to continue leading [the standings],” Mäkinen told the WRC’s All Live service.
“But still he’s second at the moment and he’s still confident he can [win]. It’s really bad for him, but Elfyn [Evans] is the master of the weekend.”
Ogier’s weekend was thwarted by issues outside of his control.
His car was first struck with an electrical problem on Saturday that left him in one gear at some points and with only front-wheel drive, costing him over 25 seconds, and he also picked up a puncture on Sunday morning’s first test before the terminal engine problem eventually struck.
When asked by DirtFish after the rally what he knew of the problems Ogier’s car had suffered on Sunday, Makinen said: “I don’t know, I have no information at all until they get the car back and when they do their investigation.”
He also said that despite Ogier claiming three stage wins to Evans’s one, and sitting firmly in victory contention prior to the punishing 23.70-mile Çetibeli stage that started Sunday’s action and shook up the leaderboard, it “wasn’t Séb’s weekend”.
“[Evans] was the man of the weekend,” said Makinen.
“Such a rough condition, he managed to save the tires without punctures and do the whole distance in such a rough condition, he is the master of the weekend. It was very, very difficult, it was so hard for the cars and for the drivers, for tires, everything.
“Sorry for Séb, this weekend wasn’t Seb’s weekend. Yesterday he had a first-time failure with some small electric motor, and then continued punctures and engine trouble. It wasn’t his weekend, but still he is in second position in the championship and still [has a] good chance to keep winning.”
Evans now leads Ogier by 18 points, with Toyota’s third car, driven by Kalle Rovanperä, a further nine points back in fourth, and only behind Hyndai’s Ott Tänak on win countback. The team’s lockout of the top of the points means it also tops the manufacturers’ standings.
While Toyota is a Japanese-registered team, Mäkinen leads the rally operation out of a base in Finland and the engine – which ended Ogier’s chances of victory in Turkey – is a construction of Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe GmbH in Cologne, Germany.