Tuesday | 12 Jan 2021

Lehtinen back in management role at Toyota

Multi-world rally winner Jarmo Lehtinen has put his pace note book away for the final time to return to Toyota Gazoo Racing as event leader. He talks wrc.com through that decision and what 2021 looks like for him now.

Q. Jarmo, you were scheduled to co-drive for Teemu Suninen at M-Sport Ford World Rally Team again this year. Why the change of direction?
A: It’s quite a big change, but in all honesty it was the brutal realism of life. We know that Teemu has only a partial programme for this year and I needed to make sure I had a steady income. I have to say, I am sad to be leaving Teemu. Really sad. We started in the middle of 2019 and we had a good plan from then. Coronavirus postponed much of that plan for last year and now with only some rallies for this year, it was difficult.

Q. It was a tough decision then?
A. Yes, it was. When Toyota made me this offer, I put it on the table and looked at it. I spoke with Teemu and we spoke with our manager and then understood that I had to make the move. For me, Teemu was a really good project for me and I was enjoying working with him.

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Q. What can you tell us about your job as event leader?
A. I will be sharing the load a little bit with Kaj [Lindström]. It’s sure that he has a lot of work on for just one person and this is something we can split between us. I will be on event and working from the office [in Jyväskylä] between the rallies.

Q: Good to be back?
A: It is, yes. And funny that, when I left, Kaj was working for me as sporting director and now I’m back working for him as sporting director! I was here for two-and-a-half years before and we really achieved so much. Looking back now, it was the right decision for me to leave and do something else – my CV has so many different jobs on it now. In the last few years, I have worked with the FIA, WRC Promoter, event organisers and, of course, I’ve been back in a rally car again. I have seen the sport from lots of different directions.

Video: Rallye Monte-Carlo look ahead

Q: Will we see you back in a rally car again?
A: No, I don’t think so. Not at this [WRC] level. I am committed to Toyota Gazoo Racing now and that’s where my focus is.

Q: Good to be back on a team with Jari-Matti Latvala again? You boys worked together at M-Sport for a few years…
A: Yes, definitely. It’s really good to see Jari-Matti, Kaj and I in these positions in this team – this is something to be grateful to Tommi [Mäkinen] for. We all know what great drivers and co-drivers Finns make, but we don’t so often see Finnish people in these positions in the teams. That’s something I’m really proud of for us.