Thursday | 06 Aug 2015

Q&A: Tommi Makinen

It's been a month since Toyota announced that it was entrusting its return to the WRC in 2017 to four-time drivers' champion Tommi Mäkinen. We caught up with Tommi to get the low down on progress so far.

Q: How is the team structure coming together?
TM: "It's a big project, everybody realises that, and I need good people around me. Trying to find them and build our organisation is where we are at the moment. So far it seems very positive. We've had a lot of good guys approaching us, and suppliers too, all with a great attitude to the project. Our design team is already there, but we have to keep employing people. Our plan is to start working in the middle of August. As as we keep bringing on more people, I hope that we are flat-out for the beginning of September"

Q: Can you give us any names of the key personnel?
TM: "I can say that [former Subaru World Rally Team engineer] Michael Zotos is part of the team. The rest of the team is nearly ready. We will make an announcement soon when we have people in the correct places."

Q: Where will the team be based?
TM: "The final location is not yet decided. It is one of the things we need to discuss with Toyota. This and many other issues are still being worked through. But everybody knows our time schedule is a big challenge - the biggest one in fact. For this reason we will start our programme, including the design phase and building prototypes, in our current location in Puuppola [near Jyväskylä in central Finland]. But we know that we need more room for further operations. Whether that is in Finland or somewhere else is yet to be decided."

Q: And what stage are you at with the car?
TM: "The base will be the Yaris. We have a cooperation with TMG [Toyota Motorsport GmbH] in Germany but the total project responsibility is with me and my company, TMR [Tommi Mäkinen Racing]. TMG is developing the engine at the moment and we are looking into what else we can do with them. They have a strong aerodynamic department - and other areas too. How much we co-operate with the different areas is under discussion."

Q: There are less than 18 months to go until the start of the 2017 season. How much of a challenge is that?
TM: "It is a big challenge. If everything goes according to plan I think we can do everything. We need to quickly find massive resources to do that."

Q: What are the critical car development deadlines for next year?
TM: "I'd like to start testing as soon as possible. I hope we are ready to do that sometime in March. I expect we'll build up two different test teams to get enough experience in different conditions. We need to finalise the car spec by October 2016 at the latest. That's when we have to lock our production. We can still make some modifications after that if we find some quick points, before homologation at the end of the year."

Q: Will you use TMG's existing Yaris WRC car as a base?
TM: "The Yaris is a 2015-spec car and 2017 regulations are completely different - with more powerful engines, different aerodynamics, wider track and so on. We are discussing how much of the existing car can be used. But whatever has been going on, we need to build our cars to the new 2017 regulations. We are discussing which bits and pieces can be useful and which can make it smoother and quicker to go forward with the project."

Q: And who would you like to see in your driver line-up?
TM: "The fastest ones! I would like to see winners driving the car. I understand this area very well because I have seen the WRC from inside and outside the windscreen. But I also know that it's really about teamwork - the total package. Yes, the driver has to be very, very good, but so does everything else including the car and the team."

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