The Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team will enter a new era in the FIA World Rally Championship with a strong driver line-up of proven winners for its three full-season manufacturer entries in 2022.
British driver Elfyn Evans and Finland’s Kalle Rovanperä will contest every event in a new hybrid Rally1 car after signing new contracts with the team. Multiple world champion Sébastien Ogier will also continue to compete for Toyota in selected WRC rounds as he steps back from full-time rallying. Completing the high-calibre line-up, Esapekka Lappi will make a welcome return to the team to share the car with Ogier during the season.
Toyota Gazoo Racing now head into a crucial phase of development ready for the sport’s new-for-2022 regulations, knowing that it can count on four drivers who are all past rally winners for the team and have helped them towards championship success.
Evans joined the team at the start of 2020 and soon proved himself a championship contender with wins in Sweden and Turkey and ultimately finishing runner-up to his French team-mate in a contest that went down to the final round. After winning in Portugal earlier this season and again at Rally Finland last weekend, the 32-year-old Welshman and his co-driver Scott Martin remain in contention for this year’s title with two rounds remaining.
Rovanperä has adapted impressively since stepping up to rallying’s highest level with the team last season. The 21-year-old, co-driven by Jonne Halttunen, recently became the WRC’s youngest winner when he claimed a dominant victory at Rally Estonia, following that up with an impressive triumph on the Acropolis Rally in Greece, cementing his reputation as the sport’s most exciting young prospect.
Ogier claimed his seventh world championship title in 2020 in his first season driving the Toyota Yaris WRC. Having decided to extend his full-time WRC career for one more year into 2021, the Frenchman, 37, currently leads the standings by 24 points with two rounds remaining after taking victories in Monte Carlo, Croatia, Sardinia and Kenya. As he looks to make time for other activities outside rallying, Ogier will determine which events he will contest in 2022 at a later date.
Julien Ingrassia, who has been alongside Ogier as his co-driver for all of his victories and championships, will bring the curtain down on his hugely-successful career at the end of 2021. Taking his place will be Benjamin Veillas, who has already worked closely with Ogier for several years in tests and as part of his gravel crew on events.
Lappi was part of the team’s line up for their inaugural season in 2017 and claimed a memorable maiden victory on home soil at Rally Finland in just his fourth top-level WRC start. His three podium finishes in 2018 helped Toyota to win the manufacturers’ championship before he moved on to other challenges. Together with co-driver Janne Ferm, the 30-year-old returned behind the wheel of a Yaris WRC last weekend with a privateer entry on Rally Finland, where he finished a strong fourth overall. He now rejoins the team on a permanent basis.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)
“I am very happy to have such a strong line-up of drivers heading into 2022. It’s very nice to have Elfyn and Kalle continuing with us as drivers who can fight for the championship. Elfyn is a really consistent driver, always helping to get the points for the team towards the championship, but as he proved with his victory on Rally Finland, he’s also absolutely one of the fastest drivers and definitely one of the contenders to win the title. We have seen really great performances from Kalle this year. He is developing all the time and as he gains more and more experience, he can also become a strong contender for championships. Seb is a great champion and he will be really valuable for us again next season, even though he will no longer be targeting the drivers’ title for himself. Finally, I’m delighted to bring Esapekka back into the team. He proved with us before that he can win, and since then I think he has been growing a lot. His motivation is very high and he showed his speed on his return last weekend. I believe he is the perfect driver to share the seat with Seb, to help us in the championship and also to fight for victories himself.”
“I’m really pleased to continue driving with the Toyota Gazoo Racing team. I have very much enjoyed my time here so far over the past two years and to win for the team on its home rally in Finland last weekend was an extra-special feeling for me. Now we are getting ready to enter a new phase with new regulations, I’m excited to be working with everyone in the team to do the best job we can in developing the Rally1 car and trying to achieve the best results possible next season. Before then, I’m keen to round off this year on a strong note and help to secure the championship for the team.”
“I’m very happy to be staying with Toyota Gazoo Racing. My first two years with the team have been really good. I have been learning a lot, and the team have given me the chance to learn and to drive in my own way without big pressure. We have a really major change coming for next year with a totally new car, and it’s going to be a big challenge for the whole team. But it’s really positive to already be familiar with the team when we’re developing the car together and to be able to provide our own ideas as drivers. The team are putting a lot of work into it and I’m excited to help them in the best way possible.”
“I’m looking forward to having more time with my family after this year, but at the same time I’m very happy to remain with Toyota Gazoo Racing and have the chance to compete in some rallies next year. I’m very thankful to the team for giving me this opportunity to keep doing on a partial basis what I love to do. The schedule of events is not clear yet, but I will do my best to help the team in the manufacturers’ championship and to develop the car. I’m excited to see what this new generation of cars brings to the sport and I know the team are putting a lot of effort into it.”
“I am very, very happy to be returning to the Toyota Gazoo Racing team. It feels like I’m coming home. I have some great memories from the past and it was really nice to work with people from the team again at Rally Finland. As soon as I got back into the Yaris WRC, it felt again like this was my car. Of course, for next year we will have a new car and although I have not driven it yet, it seems like it will be very different with the new regulations. But it will be interesting to be a part of it and I’m very excited about the future.”