Rally legend Makinen to lead Toyota upon WRC return

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Four-time world champion Tommi Makinen will lead Toyota upon its return to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2017 after an 18-year absence.

The Japanese manufacturer confirmed back in January that it would be coming back to rallying at the next change in the technical regulations, having already conducted some testing with a Yaris model.

Makinen won four consecutive WRC titles between 1996 and 1999 with Mitsubishi as part of a 16-year long career in the series. Only Sebastien Loeb has won more championships than the Finn.

He will now be returning to the WRC for 2017 with Toyota as team principal, and was welcomed aboard by brand president Akio Toyoda.

“Tommi has abundant experience and fresh ideas for vehicle development, both of which will be valuable assets to us,” Toyoda said.

“After talking to Tommi, I felt ‘I want to work with him, I want him to help us make better cars’, and that’s how I came to ask for his support with this project.

“With Tommi behind us, Toyota will forge ahead with our return to WRC and also our efforts to make ever-better cars.”

According to a report on wrc.com, Makinen is considering scrapping the current development programme with the Toyota Yaris car in favor of a ground-up approach that could even see him get behind the wheel himself.

“Even though we will need to have a proper test driver, I think it will be good if I drive too,” Makinen said.

“There are some ideas that I have which might be able to help and in any case it is good to get inputs and opinions from as many people as possible.”

In other rallying news, Sebastien Ogier extended his lead in the 2015 WRC with victory at Rally Poland last weekend.

The Frenchman clinched his fifth win of the year by 12 seconds from Andreas Mikkelsen, and now leads the Dane by 78 points at the top of the drivers’ championship.

Ott Tanak – best known for sinking his car earlier this year – scored his first podium finish in almost three years for the Ford M-Sport team, having led for some of the early stages in Poland.