Toyota’s top WRC winners

Toyota has been a prolific winner in the WRC, but who has enjoyed the most success with the manufacturer?

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Few automakers can boast as rich a World Rally Championship history as Toyota. To date, the Japanese brand has won four constructors titles and helped five different drivers claim six drivers crowns.

With over 60 rally victories in WRC history, only three other manufacturers can claim to have been more successful – but who is the most successful pilot in Toyota’s illustrious history?

In total, 14 drivers have won in Toyotas whether that be in one of the early Group 4 Celicas, the Group B Twincam, the legendary Group A Celica GT-Four, the Corolla WRC or the current Yaris WRC.

It’s a success story that is ever evolving with Toyota drivers currently occupying the top two spots in the drivers’ championship and the team leads the manufacturers’ race too. But DirtFish has compiled the statistics as they stand to examine who has won the most rallies for Toyota.

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=11 Walter Boyce

No. of wins: 1
First/last win: Lake Superior Performance Rally 1973
Car: Corolla Levin TE 27

Toyota’s maiden World Rally victor is a name some rallying fans may never even have heard of.

Walter Boyce wasn’t a regular in the WRC, and indeed only started six rounds – all in North America as a Canadian driver – but he did win on his very first start back in 1973 on what was then called the Press-on Regardless Rally.

Today it’s known as the Lake Superior Performance Rally and is a round of the American Rally Association National series, but in 1973 – the inaugural year of the World Rally Championship for manufacturers – it counted for world series points.

Boyce won the rally in his Corolla by over 24 minutes from James Walker’s Volvo, but it didn’t really garner the attention Toyota had desired for its maiden WRC success. Most of the European teams and drivers just stuck to rallies on the continent, meaning Toyota hadn’t really seen off the best of the best.

It would however do just that with a certain future world champion at the helm…

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=11 Hannu Mikkola

No. of wins: 1
First/last win: Rally Finland 1975
Car: Corolla Levin TE 27

The late Hannu Mikkola is best remembered for his exploits behind the wheel of Fords, Audis and Mazdas; but he does have the unique claim of being the first driver to ever win a World Rally Championship round in Europe driving a Toyota.

Back in 1975, the WRC was only a manufacturers’ championship, and drivers would move around different teams on a fairly regular basis – in stark contrast to today. That year, for example, Mikkola piloted a Fiat 124 Abarth and a Peugeot 504 as well as the Toyota Corolla Levin and Celica.

On his home event in Finland, Mikkola was armed with a Corolla Levin and repeated his victory from the previous year in a Ford Escort Mk2. It was a resounding success, as he saw off the challenge of Simo Lampinen’s Saab to win by well north of a minute.

Somewhat poignantly, Mikkola’s final ever WRC start was also in a Toyota and on Rally Finland. Piloting a Group A Celica, he finished seventh in 1993.

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=11 Armin Schwarz

No. of wins: 1
First/last win: Rally Spain 1991
Car: Celica GT-Four ST165

Armin Schwarz is potentially better remembered for his time spent in less competitive Škoda and Hyundai machinery when the World Rally Car ruleset was born, but a decade earlier the German was a rising talent having performed heroics in a cumbersome Audi 200 Quattro late in the ’80s.

His exploits caught the attention of Toyota with whom Schwarz would remain with from 1990-92 before a move to Mitsubishi. But Schwarz’s finest WRC moment would come behind the wheel of a Celica as he took a clear victory on Rally Spain 1991.

That ’91 season had been a decent if unspectacular one for Schwarz who netted his first podium in Australia, but he proved practically untouchable on Spanish asphalt. Second fastest on SS1, Schwarz hit the front on the second test and was headed to claim a 1m33s victory over Juha Kankkunen’s Lancia. Not even a 30s time penalty for a late check-in could stop Schwarz in his tracks.

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=11 Ian Duncan

No. of wins: 1
First/last win: Safari Rally 1994
Car: Celica GT-Four ST185

It would be easy – and really quite lazy – to chalk Ian Duncan’s sole WRC victory up as a fortunate, walk-in-the-park affair given the depleted entry list for the 1994 Safari Rally. Aside from team-mates Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol, Kenjiro Shinozuka’s Mitsubishi was the only other realistic challenger.

But this was the Safari Rally, and in Kenya experience and patience pays. It’s no surprise then that Kenyan driver Duncan was frequently called upon by Toyota to form part of its factory line-up on an event it had huge pedigree on.

Third in 1993, Duncan went one better in ’94 to defeat his two far more established team-mates by some 25 minutes and record an historic WRC victory.

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Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing

=11 Esapekka Lappi

No. of wins: 1
First/last win: Rally Finland 2017
Car: Yaris WRC

Esapekka Lappi’s period in the WRC, and with Toyota, peaked extremely early with a superb victory at home in Finland four years ago. It was just Lappi’s fourth start for the team (and at the very top level of rallying) which perhaps set the rest of his career up for a fall given how superbly it all began.

Driving a car that was born on the Finnish roads and with an all-Finnish line-up of Lappi, Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hänninen, Toyota was always expected to perform strongly in Finland and so it proved as Latvala and Lappi jostled for the lead.

Latvala looked to have a small edge but when he slowed with a mechanical problem, the path was paved clear for Lappi to storm to a shock and breakthrough victory. He would continue with Toyota until the end of 2018 but failed to hit the same highs.

There could be another chapter in this particular story though with Lappi linked to at least a half-season program with Toyota in 2022.

Kalle Rovanpera

Photo: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

=8 Kalle Rovanperä*

No. of wins: 2
First win: Rally Estonia 2021
Last win: Acropolis Rally 2021
Car: Yaris WRC

The newest member of the Toyota winners’ club, but one who’s sure to join the very best you’ll find later on this list in the not too distant future.

Kalle Rovanperä looked like a WRC winner from the moment he first clambered aboard a Toyota Yaris WRC at the start of the 2020 season and, after 14 starts at the top level, that’s exactly what he became on the 2021 edition of Rally Estonia.

Rovanperä had heavily flirted with that first victory, having led but not won three times prior to breaking his duck, but it all came good in Estonia as he drove well clear of Hyundai’s Craig Breen.

The success crowned Rovanperä as the youngest rally winner in WRC history, the 15th in Toyota’s history, and the first son of a former rally winner to repeat the feats of his father. It wasn’t a bad weekend.

A few weeks later, he then blew everyone away with a controlling performance on the Acropolis Rally, a rally he had never contested before, for a second victory.

*still competing today

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=8 Mats Jonsson

No. of wins: 2
First win: Rally Sweden 1992
Last win: Rally Sweden 1993
Cars: Celica GT-Four ST165, Celica GT-Four ST185

Mats Jonsson went undefeated on his home event, Rally Sweden, for two successive years in 1992 and ’93 driving the older Celica ST165 and then the ST185.

A regular threat in the Swedish championship, Jonsson benefited from local Toyota support but was drafted into the works set-up for Rally Sweden in the early ’90s given his experience and pace on his local stages.

It proved to be the right decision. In 1992, Jonsson stormed to his maiden WRC victory by 39s over Colin McRae’s Subaru Legacy while the following year he proved lightning could strike twice by edging team-mate Juha Kankkunen by a narrow 13s.

The brace of victories gives Jonsson an impressive 33% strike rate for Toyota with two wins from six WRC starts. His next-best finish outside Sweden was fourth on the 1990 RAC Rally in the UK.

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Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing

=8 Jari-Matti Latvala

No. of wins: 2
First win: Rally Sweden 2017
Last win: Rally Australia 2018
Car: Yaris WRC

Jari-Matti Latvala was the man charged with spearheading Toyota’s return to the WRC in 2017, but nobody expected it to culminate in him leading the championship after two rallies. Second on the Monte Carlo Rally, Latvala stormed to an unexpected victory in Sweden to hand Toyota its first WRC win for 18 years.

From that championship lead, a couple of mechanical dramas began to hurt Latvala who would eventually wind up fourth. He would again net fourth in the title race in 2018 and won at the final time of asking: down under in Australia.

Latvala continues to play a pivotal role in Toyota’s WRC program as in 2021 he assumed the role of team principal after the departure of Tommi Mäkinen.

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Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing

7 Elfyn Evans*

No. of wins: 4
First win: Rally Sweden 2020
Last win: Rally Finland 2021
Car: Yaris WRC

Coming alive as soon as he donned Toyota overalls, Elfyn Evans needed just two rallies to take his first victory in a Toyota. Leading a shortened Rally Sweden from start to finish – fresh from fighting for victory in Monte Carlo – Evans and the Yaris WRC swiftly became a match made in heaven as they fought for the 2020 world titles.

Evans would win a rally again in 2020, in Turkey as his rivals fell by the wayside one by one. It would elevate him into a seemingly strong title position before one icy corner on the season-ending Monza Rally put paid to those aspirations.

His third win for Toyota came in Portugal 2021 when he profited from Ott Tänak’s retirement to best Hyundai driver Dani Sordo to the win, and the fourth in Finland where he responded to pressure from Tänak for two days to take an assertive and possibly career-defining success.

Evans doesn’t look he’s done winning for Toyota by any stretch either, so expect him to climb up this list very soon.

*still competing today

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=5 Björn Waldegård

No. of wins: 6
First win: Rally New Zealand 1982
Last win: Safari Rally 1990
Cars: Celica 2000 GT, Celica Twincam Turbo, Celica GT-Four ST165

Few drivers can rival the original World Rally Champion’s pedigree and history behind the wheel of a Toyota.

It was on the continent of Africa where the Björn Waldegård and Toyota combination was at its most effective. Following his triumph in New Zealand in 1982, the Swede won both the 1983 Rally Côte d’Ivoire and the 1984 Safari in a Celica Twincam where the rear-wheel-drive machine was able to compete with the emerging four-wheel-drive Group B machines due to the rugged terrain.

Waldegård repeated the trick in amid Group B’s pomp in 1986 by winning in both Kenya and the Ivory Coast, while his final success for Toyota came seveal years later – again in Africa – on the 1990 Safari with the Group A Celica GT-Four ST165.

He may not have been the quickest driver by this point, but Waldegård’s vast experience and the reliability of the Toyota made this an unbeatable combination when the going got outrageous.

Sebastien Ogier

Photo: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

=5 Sébastien Ogier*

No. of wins: 6
First win: Rally México 2020
Last win: Safari Rally Kenya 2021
Car: Yaris WRC

Despite only starting 13 world rallies in a Toyota, seven-time world champion Sébastien Ogier has won six times in white, red and black and looks to be on his way to a second world title in as many attempts with the team.

Ogier joined Toyota from Citroën in 2020 and eventually became embroiled in a season-long title fight with new team-mate Elfyn Evans. Winning in México and the final, quirky, round at Monza, Ogier grabbed the spoils to net Toyota its sixth drivers’ crown in the WRC.

Things have gone even better in 2021 as Ogier has won four of the first six rounds – Toyota five of those six – including some typically masterful performances in Italy and Kenya to carve open a commanding championship lead.

It would be really quite bizarre if Ogier didn’t advance further up Toyota’s roll of honor in the immediate future.

*still competing today

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4 Didier Auriol

No. of wins: 7
First win: Monte Carlo Rally 1993
Last win: Rally China 1999
Cars:, Celica GT-Four ST185, Celica GT-Four ST205, Corolla WRC

Didier Auriol was always one of the most charismatic drivers and his tenure in the WRC is often best associated with Toyota despite his exploits for other marques like Lancia, Peugoet and Seat.

Auriol arrived at Toyota in 1993, moving from Lancia, and incredibly won on his first-ever rally with the team in Monte Carlo. It set the tone for what was a very successful partnership that eventually resulted in Auriol’s one and only world title in 1994.

That title winning season yielded three further wins in Corsica, Argentina and Sanremo before Auriol – a master on the Tour de Corse – won again in 1995 with the sleeker, more aggressive Celica GT-Four ST205.

Toyota’s ban from 1996 made it a quiet season for Auriol, but the Frenchman stuck with the team and debuted the Corolla WRC on several rounds in 1997 before a full-blown attack in ’98. While Auriol was ultimately second-best to team-mate Carlos Sainz in both seasons, he did claim two final Toyota wins in Spain, 1998 and in China 1999.

That not only gives Auriol the distinction of the only driver ever to win in China but that win also stood as Toyota’s last until Latvala returned the marque to the top step 18 years later.

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3 Juha Kankkunen

No. of wins: 9
First win: Safari Rally 1985
Last win: Rally Portugal 1994
Cars: Celica Twincam Turbo, Celica GT-Four ST165, Celica GT-Four ST185

Juha Kankkunen had three separate spells with Toyota, culminating in nine rally wins and one world championship in 1993. It all started in similar fashion to Waldegård, winning the WRC’s two African rounds in 1985 before he was snapped up by Peugoet.

But when Group B died just a year later, Kankkunen was on the move again and returned to Toyota as a double world champion in 1988. Driving the iconic Celica GT-Four ST165, the Finn suffered a disastrous ’88 season with five retirements from six starts but would finally get a third Toyota win in 1989 in Australia.

Kankkunen then went back to Lancia for 1990, who he had joined from in ’87, for three seasons before a Toyota spell beckoned for a third and final time. Now a triple world champion, Kankkunen’s second homecoming was far more prosperous as he won six rallies and a final world title with the ST185 Celica.

Five of those wins came in 1993 in Kenya, Argentina, Finland, Auatralia and the UK before a final Toyota win in Portugal the following year. Kankkunen was a major player in the 1995 title race before crashing in Spain and the team’s turbos being discovered to be illegal, resulting in Toyota’s shameful one-year suspension from the WRC.

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Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing

2 Ott Tänak

No. of wins: 10
First win: Rally Argentina 2018
Last win: Rally GB 2019
Car: Yaris WRC

It really does speak volumes of the level of dominance Ott Tänak was able to achieve with the Toyota Yaris WRC that he is able to rank second on this list despite only driving for the team in 2018 and ’19. Tänak and Toyota weren’t just the quickest, they were feared.

The partnership got off to a slightly rocky start but as soon as Tänak claimed that first win in Argentina, the floodgates were opened. That famous, devastating mid-season run that included three back-to-back wins in Finland, Germany and Turkey catapulted Tänak into world championship contention and were it not for small reliability niggles across both seasons, he could quite feasibly have won both the 2018 and ’19 world crowns.

Of course he would win in 2019, thus becoming the first driver in 16 years that wasn’t Sébastien Loeb or Ogier to do so. Tänak won six times in 2019 – in Sweden, Chile, Portugal, Finland, Germany and the UK – to take a crushing world title but shocked many when news filtered through that he would be leaving for Hyundai.

It could be argued that Tänak made the wrong call as Toyota has continued to win with Ogier and he has struggled to hit the same form in an i20, but there can be no disputing Tänak’s imperious record in a Toyota. His time at the team will always be remembered for the mind-bending speed and the ease at which it seemed to be achieved.

1991 Argentina RallyWorldwide Copyright: McKlein

1 Carlos Sainz

No. of wins: 15
First win: Acropolis Rally 1990
Last win: Rally New Zealand 1998
Cars: Celica GT-Four ST165, Celica GT-Four ST185, Corolla WRC

It couldn’t really be anybody else at number one, could it? Although Ogier could draw level with him, Sainz so far stands as the only driver to win two drivers’ crowns with Toyota and during his two separate periods with the team he racked up an impressive 15 world rally wins.

The Sainz and Toyota story began in 1989 but never really hit its stride until the turning of a new decade. Sainz chalked up his first WRC victory – on the Acropolis no less – and from there it all began to flow as he won again immediately in New Zealand and later in Finland (becoming the first non-Scandinavian driver to do so) and in the UK to seal the 1990 title.

Sainz was on top of the world, and won five of the first seven rallies in 1991 before his campaign began to fall apart with poorer form, accidents and mechanicals and Sainz lost his title. Undeterred, he duly stole it back the following year with another four wins added to his tally.

An ill-fated move to Lancia followed before spells at Subaru and then an unplanned stop at Ford as Sainz planned to return to Toyota only for the team to be expelled. The return finally happened in 1998 though and Sainz duly won on his first rally in a Corolla WRC.

Another win in New Zealand capped off a strong season that agonizingly almost brought a third world title. Instead, his Corolla’s engine expired just meters from the final stop-line of the season and stopped Sainz in his tracks. The final year of the Sainz and Toyota marriage was less successful as Sainz went winless and would only finish fifth in the championship standings.

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