Home Latest News The Ultimate Guide to WRC 2017 – Toyota

The Ultimate Guide to WRC 2017 – Toyota


Every day this week, we’ve been running the rule over each of the teams and drivers gunning for WRC’s ultimate prize in 2017. Last up, here’s the lowdown on new boys Toyota.

Toyota World Rally Team:

Toyota is mounting a return to the World Rally Championship after an 18 year hiatus after having last graced the world’s most demanding rally series in 1999. That season brought the curtain down on an uninterrupted 25 year run in WRC for Toyota Team Europe, during which time the Asian manufacturer had established itself as a major player on the roads and a firm favourite with the fans.

Iconic cars such as the Celica Twin-cam Turbo and GT-Four delivered four drivers’ and three manufacturers’ world championships in the 1990s, piloted by legendary names such as Carlos Sainz, Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol. Spearheading the comeback is another WRC luminary from that era, four-time world champion Tommi Mäkinen. The ex-Mitsibishi ace has assembled a squad with a very Finnish look to it, featuring an intriguing blend of youth and experience.

Team Principle: Tommi Mäkinen


Jari-Matti Latvala

Age: 31

Nationality: Finnish

Co-driver: Miikka Anttila

World Championships: 0

Career WRC Rally wins: 15

2016 finish: 6th 

Jari-Matti Latvala is the latest in a long line of Finnish rallying masters. Seemingly born to drive, Latvala first got behind a wheel at the tender age of 8 and by 10 was honing his rallying skills on a frozen lake near his home. He made his WRC debut in 2002 aged 17 and in 2008 became the youngest ever rally winner in WRC history with victory in Sweden. Latvala continued to amass experience with Ford until signing for VW in 2013 with whom he enjoyed his greatest success. Four wins, including an emotional triumph at his home event in Finland, propelled the 31-year-old to second in the world championship in 2014, albeit a considerable distance behind Sébastien Ogier.

2015 should have seen the Finn take more of a challenge to his teammate and arch-rival. However, after a sub-par start to the year, a meaningful title challenge never materialised leaving Latvala a distant 80 points adrift of eventual victor Ogier. His final season at Volkswagen proved to be even more frustrating. Astonishingly, the Töysä native failed to score on three of the opening four rounds (ironically he won the other in Mexico). Yet another sluggish start had once again put Latvala behind the eight ball and this time his season faded badly, registering just two podiums thereafter in what was a dominant Polo R.

Sixth overall in the 2016 driver’s championship is well below the standards we’ve come to expect from such a talented competitor. So perhaps, in a roundabout way, the end of Volkswagen’s WRC participation may have come at a good time for the embattled Finn. A fresh start with a new team and a new car might just be what the doctored ordered to help one of WRC’s most popular characters rediscover his best form.

With the expertise and know-how to win on all surfaces, Jari-Matti is a match for just about anyone in a world rally car. A total of 16 WRC rally wins also bestows him the dubious honour of being the most successful driver never to win the world championship. In 2017, Latvala’s number one priority will be to make the established names stand up and take note of the new kids on the block. Oh, and maybe to get one over on a certain Gallic acquaintance whilst he’s at it…

Juho Hanninen

Age: 35

Nationality: Finnish

Co-driver: Kaj Lindstrom

World Championships: 0

Career WRC Rally wins: 0

2016 finish: N/A 

Juha Hänninen’s career to date has been that of a rallying journeyman. The Finn first took to the road on a WRC event way back in 2006, where he piloted a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX to victory in the Group N class. Hänninen’s career has been very much a slow-burner since then. Several successful seasons with Skoda in the S2000 category yielded the Intercontinental Rally Challenge title in 2010 and the European Championship crown in 2012.

The experienced Finn had to wait until 2013 for his first ever WRC stage win. That same year, he was recruited by Hyundai to help develop the Korean brand’s new i20 WRC, a car he subsequently piloted on six outings with moderate success the following season.

Hänninen’s track record in development and testing made him the ideal candidate to help Toyota boss Tommi Mäkinen fine tune the team’s all-new Yaris WRC last season. The 35-year old was rewarded for his diligent work behind the scenes when compatriot Mäkinen confirmed him as Toyota’s first signing for 2017. For the first time, Hänninen will get to tackle a full WRC campaign and will be accompanied by a four-time world champion in the passenger’s seat; Mäkinen’s own former co-driver Kaj Lindström.

He may not be amongst the most illustrious name on the entry sheet, but don’t underestimate this wily competitor who arguably knows his 2017 machinery better than anybody else in the class of 2017.

Esapekka Lappi

Age: 25

Nationality: Finnish

Co-driver: Janne Ferm

World Championships: 0

Career WRC Rally wins: 0

2016 finish: 1st (WRC2)

The third member of the Toyota’s driver line-up for 2017, Esapekka Lappi brings a sprinkle of youthful exuberance to Tommi Mäkinen’s all-Finnish triumvirate. At 25, Lappi will be one of the youngest men entrusted with the keys to an World Rally Car this season. He’s here for a reason though. Like many prospective WRC stars, Lappi earned his stripes in the European Rally Championship, winning the series in 2014. A natural progression to WRC 2 followed, where the young gun took third place overall in a Skoda Fabia R5 behind Nasser Al-Attiyah and Yuriy Protasov.

The breakthrough, however, came in 2016 when Lappi was crowned WRC 2 champion thanks to class victories in Finland, German, Great Britain and Australia. Along the way, the 25-year old bested drivers with WRC experience such as Elfyn Evans, a man with whom he will resume hostilities in the premier category this season.

Originally earmarked to take up the reins of the second Yaris WRC, Latvala’s arrival at Toyota means Lappi will be restricted to a handful of appearances on selected rounds this season. Do well, and the promising youngster could earn himself a more generous program in 2018.

The car: Toyota Yaris WRC

The Finnish trio will ride into battle aboard the all-new Toyota Yaris WRC this season. The competition version of Toyota’s road-going hot-hatch draws 375bhp and 314lb ft of torque from a 1.6-litre engine, in line with the more relaxed WRC technical regulations ahead of the new campaign.