Toyota will return to the 2017 World Rally Championship after a 17 years hiatus with its new generation Yaris WRC race car to be driven by Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hänninen.
Lead driver Latvala – a three-time runner-up in the WRC alongside co-driver Miikka Anttila – has invaluable experience with 169 starts and 16 WRC victories under his belt.
Second driver Juho Hänninen, who has taken part in the development of the Yaris WRC from its very first outing, will be joined by co-driver Kaj Lindström who first competed in the WRC in 1996.
Finn Esapekka Lappi, the recently crowned WRC2 champion, will join the team through the season as a test driver.
The Yaris WRC is powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder petrol engine generating 279kW (over 380 PS) and 425Nm of torque. It drives all four wheels via a 6-speed hydraulic shift transmission with double plate sintered clutch, two mechanical differential and an active centre differential with torque split options.
Toyota believes the WRC, which is the pinnacle of rallying, will contribute to making “ever-better cars” because it provides new challenges and opportunities to further develop its people, explore new technologies and experience various road conditions around the world.
Team chairman and global Toyota president Akio Toyoda said participating in the WRC would enable Toyota to train and strengthen its people and cars.
“Because they involve competition on all types of roads, rallies are the optimal stage on which to hone the capabilities of both people and cars,” Mr Toyoda said. “Toyota has not been seen on that stage for a long time, but I’m truly happy that we’re back.”
Mr Toyoda paid tribute to the people who created a strong bond between rally and Toyota over an extended period and etched that bond into people’s memory.
These included the late Ove Andersson, who launched and led Toyota’s team in the 1970s; the late Björn Waldegård, who catapulted Toyota to fame in WRC in the 1980s; and Carlos Sainz, Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol, who captured drivers’ championships for Toyota in the 1990s.
The Yaris WRC has been built and developed by a team of experienced engineers who have taken advantage of the aerodynamic freedom allowed by the regulations to create an impressive design.
Team principal and four-time WRC champion Tommi Mäkinen said: “The Yaris WRC is a well-designed car with incredible potential. The new regulations allow for much greater freedom in terms of development.
“Although we have yet to explore all the possibilities, we can say that the car is reliable and quick. I really can’t wait to see the results in racing conditions.”
The 2017 World Rally Championship starts in Monte Carlo next month.