Tommi Mäkinen is a man who knows a thing or two about rallying. The four-time WRC champion dominated the sport during the late 90s aboard the legendary Mitsubishi Lancer WRC, racking up a sizable haul of 24 rally victories and 45 podiums over an illustrious 18-year career.
Since retiring, the iconic Finn hasn’t exactly been putting his feet up and has been busy preparing Group N rally cars at the helm of his own private racing team, Tommi Mäkinen Racing. One such project saw him enlisted to prepare a private GT86 rally car for Toyota which thrilled the crowds in action at the 2014 instalment of Rally Finland.
Clearly, the partnership was a fruitful one and now the Japanese manufacturer have officially confirmed that the ex-WRC superstar will take up the role of Team Principle ahead of the squad’s 2017 comeback.
Securing Mäkinen’s signature is undoubtedly a huge boost for the fledgling team but does cast a certain degree of doubt over the immediate future of Toyota’s current WRC development programme. Since the company rubber-stamped it’s WRC return in January this year, Cologne-based Toyota Motorsport (TMG) have been overseeing testing of the new Yaris World Rally Car with the help of development pilots Sebastian Lindholm and Stéphane Sarrazin. However, whilst TMG will remain as a ‘technical partner’ for the programme, Mäkinen will now take on full responsibility for development of the 2017 entry – effectively leaving the former Mitsubishi ace with a blank cheque with which to build his own car from the ground-up if required.
What is certain is that Mäkinen himself will be on the very front-line of testing. Alongside the existing development drivers, the newly installed team principle will be getting behind the wheel of Toyota’s 2017 contender, utilising his wealth of rallying knowledge to fine tune the new car in the field.