Friday | 04 Dec 2015

Toyota eyes three cars for 2017 return

Toyota could run three cars when it returns to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2017, according to team principal Tommi Mäkinen.

The Finn, who will oversee Toyota's return after a 17-year absence, said discussions had started with potential drivers for seats in the team's all-new Yaris World Rally Car.

"We are in discussions with various drivers for 2017, bearing in mind that we hope to enter at least two, if not three, vehicles into the championship," said Mäkinen.

Should Toyota GAZOO Racing enter three cars, they could be split between two teams in the way Volkswagen and Hyundai operates. Alternatively they could run within one team, with two of the three cars nominated for manufacturer points.

Mäkinen also revealed his team would begin building the first Yaris 'very soon'.

"Right now, we are in the process of designing the car. Our team of engineers and designers, along with our suppliers, have worked tirelessly to meet the schedule and develop a car that could be a winner.

Mäkinen confirmed testing would start next spring

"Testing is due to start during spring 2016. An extensive schedule has already been drawn up in order to hold tests in Finland and around the world," he said.

Mäkinen ended months of on-off speculation about the involvement of Cologne-based Toyota Motorsport (TMG), which is owned by the Japanese manufacturer and built a separate Yaris rally car [pictured above] before responsibility for Toyota's return was handed to Mäkinen.

"TMG is a key partner for us. It is responsible for designing and producing the Yaris WRC's engine, which will be an exclusively Toyota unit," he added.

Jarmo Lehtinen, former co-driver to Mikko Hirvonen, brings experience as sporting director and Lauri Riipinen, who worked with Mäkinen from 2005 to 2013, is operations director.

Michael Zotos, Mäkinen's rally engineer when he drove for Subaru, is confirmed as technical director, and Simon Carrier, who headed the Ford Focus RS design team at M-Sport, is chief designer. Tom Fowler, Hirvonen's engineer at Ford, is chief of engineering and Mikko Ruoho, a Tommi Mäkinen Racing engineer since 2007, is chief of electronics.

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