The squad secured the manufacturers’ championship when Jari-Matti Latvala won last weekend’s Kennards Hire Rally Australia. It was the Japanese manufacturer’s first title success since it returned to WRC action at the beginning of 2017.
Toyota also had an outside chance of securing the 2018 drivers’ title with Ott Tänak – who secured a hat-trick of wins in the second half of the season. Although the Estonian’s title charge ultimately ran out of steam, Mäkinen is delighted with his team’s rapid progress.
“We started this project three-and-a-half years ago and we have developed much faster than we imagined,” he said. “Last year we were here to learn and to gather data. In the second half of this season, we found a lot of improvements with the car.
“This is the result of the huge effort from everybody in the team, and I am sure this success will further motivate us all to continue improving in 2019.”
Mäkinen also explained that Toyota’s title success had largely been down to an intense focus on continually improving the performance of its Yaris throughout the season.
He said: “In 2016 and 2017 we were learning and analysing different items and then we really started developing the car in 2018 and somewhere in the second half of the season, we found many areas where we can improve. This has been absolutely brilliant for us.”
The Finn’s joy at scooping his first WRC title as a team principal was shared by Toyota president, and chairman of Toyota Gazoo Racing, Akio Toyoda.
“I feel so grateful, as team chairman, that we could get such a great result in the second year of our challenge after returning to the WRC following 18 years away,” Toyoda said.
“I am so grateful to Tommi, who has kept strengthening the Yaris WRC to win this title, all the team members who supported Tommi, and the six drivers and co-drivers who kept driving the Yaris towards our goal.”