In a press conference today (Monday), the Japanese manufacturer squad unveiled Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta as its full-time duo for next season, whilst also designating Ogier and Rovanperä as part-time GR Yaris Rally1 drivers.
While this agreement is not new for Ogier, as he only contested selected rounds in 2023, it signifies a step back for 23-year-old Finn Rovanperä, who has clinched the drivers' championship for two consecutive years.
Speaking exclusively to WRC.com following the news, team
principal Jari-Matti Latvala confirmed that Rovanperä and Ogier will not share
a car in 2024 – meaning decisions will need to be made regarding who the team
nominates to score manufacturers' championship points at each round, especially
in scenarios where both Ogier and Rovanperä participate in the same rally.
As it stands, Katsuta may be asked to step aside
for the pair at rallies where both are competing.
"To be fair," said Latvala, "as a manufacturer, it's not the nicest thing when you have drivers doing only half the championship because we want to have drivers doing a full championship for the titles. But, in this situation, we also need to think that we are investing for the future.
“Taka will do the full season but luckily there is an option that we can move and play around with the drivers a little bit. This could be the case if Seb and Kalle are both in the same event, which is very possible.
“Taka has been already in this position this year, so it’s nothing new for him,” Latvala added. “Actually, I think he will be [nominated to score points] more next year as a third driver than he has this year anyway.”
Latvala admitted that, while having two part-time drivers in the team is workable for 2024, it’s not an arrangement he would like to continue with long-term.
“It fits quite nicely now because Seb wants to do a half-season, but in the future, we don’t know what he wants to do. I would say that, honestly, it’s not our wish to keep going with two drivers doing half the season, but at this point, it was matching."