Thursday | 07 Oct 2021

Toyota Gazoo Racing confirms 2022 line-up

Esapekka Lappi will return to Toyota Gazoo Racing for the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship to share a new hybrid-era GR Yaris WRC Rally1 car with Sébastien Ogier.

Ogier, currently chasing an eighth world title in nine years, announced previously he would step back from a full-time programme next year and contest selected rounds. Lappi was widely predicted to fill the seat at the rallies the Frenchman skips.

Lappi, who drove a privately-entered Yaris World Rally Car to fourth at last weekend’s Secto Automotive Rally Finland, scored his only WRC win with Toyota in 2017. He left after the 2018 campaign to join Citroën Racing and then M-Sport Ford.

Julien Ingrassia, who has co-driven Ogier since the start of his career in 2006, will retire at the end of this season. He will be replaced by Benjamin Veillas, who has worked closely with Ogier at tests and in his safety note crew.

As expected, Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanperä have signed new contracts after two years with the Japanese manufacturer and will contest all 13 rounds. Toyota has not determined which events Ogier will contest.

Julien Ingrassia will retire at the end of the current season

All four drivers have previously won rallies for the squad and team principal Jari-Matti Latvala believes Lappi can increase his tally.

“He proved with us before that he can win and since then I think he has been growing a lot,” he said. “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 Séb, to help us in the championship but also be there to fight for victories himself.”

Lappi was assisted by TGR mechanics and engineers last weekend and admitted returning to the team was a natural move.

Lappi finished fourth on home ground in Finland last weekend

“It feels like I’m coming home,” he enthused. “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.”

Ogier’s decision to step back was centred on spending more time with his family, but he is looking forward to ‘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 bring to the sport and I know the team is putting a lot of effort into it,” he said.

Latvala said the consistency provided by keeping Evans, who is fighting for the 2021 title with Ogier, and Rovanperä, who became the youngest WRC event winner in history in Estonia in July, would be important for the team to fight for both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles.

“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,” he added.

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