Jari-Matti Latvala, the most experienced driver in WRC history, is appointed Team Principal of the Toyota GAZOO Racing World Rally Team ahead of the 2021 season.
The Toyota Gazoo racing World Rally Team is preparing to target further FIA World Rally Championship success in 2021.
Sébastien Ogier, who won his seventh drivers’ title in his first season with the team in 2020, has extended his career to spend one more year driving the Toyota Yaris WRC. He will once again line up alongside Elfyn Evans, the 2020 championship runner-up, and exciting young talent Kalle Rovanperä.
With Tommi Makinen stepping down as team boss at the end of the 2020 season to become Toyota’s motorsport advisor, Latvala will move into the team principal role having been selected by Toyota president Akio Toyoda.
Latvala will “bring a driver’s perspective” to its management team of project director Yuichiro Haruna, sporting director Kaj Lindström, and technical director Tom Fowler.
Toyota also confirmed an unchanged driver line-up of seven-time WRC champion Sebastien Ogier, 2020 runner-up Elfyn Evans and rising star Kalle Rovanpera.
Last month, Ogier confirmed he had delayed his WRC retirement plans to stick with Toyota for at least 2021.
Latvala, WRC runner-up in 2010, 2014 and 2015, joined Toyota in 2017 as one of its drivers on its return to the championship and produced a stunning start by finishing second in the Monte Carlo Rally opener and winning the second round in Sweden.
The 35-year-old Finn only stopped full-time WRC competition this year when he was shuffled out of Toyota’s driver line-up but has acted as a team ambassador this year and is relishing his new role.
“I am really honoured to be taking on this position with the team, and by the trust that Akio Toyoda has shown in me,” Latvala said.
“I’m really excited to continue the work he started together with Tommi, having been a part of this team from the beginning as a driver.”
“Now, as team principal, I have to see the bigger picture: I have to motivate everybody in the team to work together to achieve the best results. It’s a new challenge and I’m up for it.
“Tommi has done a fantastic job with the team, building it up from zero and bringing the success that he has. There is always room for improvement and I want to use what I have learned over the years as a driver and work together with the team directors to make this team as successful as possible.
“The 2021 season is just around the corner but the entire package is already there within the team, with a proven car and the same strong driver line-up, and everybody knows what needs to be done to prepare for the Monte Carlo Rally in January.”
Toyoda is delighted to see Latvala remain an integral part of Toyota’s WRC efforts and is confident he can make a smooth transition from driver to team principal.
“It’s been a year since we gave Jari-Matti a send-off from the team as a driver,” Toyoda said. “And now, I’m very glad that I’m delivering this message again.
“When thinking about our new team from 2021, Jari-Matti’s face first came to my mind. That’s because there were many situations in which I empathised with him since we met.
“He always thinks of the fans and of his team-mates. Being one of the top drivers, I often saw him running up to fans as soon as he got out of the car at the service park.
“He cared about everybody in the team like mechanics and engineers and always talked to them. I believe this kind of attitude and character empowered the team a lot and helped lead to the manufacturers’ title.
“When I first met him, he was wearing Volkswagen overalls, but he talked to me about his old Celicas and Corollas with a huge passion. The following year, he changed his overalls to Toyota’s.
“He loved our Yaris WRC, took very good care of it, and made it stronger. As a car guy who loves cars, I still remember how happy I was to see his love for cars and love for Toyota.”
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THE NEXT RACE 2021
|Bahrain ||26 Mar|
|14:30 - 15:30||Free practice 1|
|18:00 - 19:00||Free practice 2|
|15:00 - 16:00||Free practice 3|
|18:00 - 19:00||Qualifying|
|18:00 - 20:00||Race|
|Bahrain||57 laps||308.238 km|