Toyota confirmed its return to the World Rally Championship in 2017 last January, but the team still hasn’t announced any drivers. Since then, the Japanese brand has acquired a team principal and designated a name for their future WRC effort. The Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal is four-time WRC Champion Driver Tommi Mäkinen, who was confirmed for this position last July.
The Finnish rally legend has affirmed his interest in bringing top pilots to their roster, as the Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC team does not have any secured drivers. Since all the current WRC star drivers are under contract, and some of them even declined an offer from Toyota, the recruitment process is complicated. The only WRC driver with a seat at the wheel of a Toyota Yaris WRC would be Mikko Hirvonen, but his role is mostly linked to the testing process of the car.
In an interview with Autosport, Tommi Mäkinen has confirmed that the 2017 pilot roster will probably be a compromise, but that does not mean they are not looking for proven talent. While Volkswagen’s Sebastien Ogier reportedly declined an offer from Toyota last summer, and so did Citroen’s Kris Meeke, the 51-year-old Finnish driver who turned to prepping Subarus for Group N rallying after he stopped running in WRC, is thinking about recruiting other WRC Champions.
In the interview with Autosport, the names of two WRC legends arose, and both of them resonated with Mäkinen. Those are Sebastien Loeb and Petter Solberg, both multiple WRC Champions, the former having nine WRC titles to his name, while the latter is three-time WRC Champion and also has a FIA World RallyCross (RX) Champion title.
Tommi Mäkinen admitted he met up with Petter Solberg last month, and the meeting was also mentioned by Solberg in a separate interview. Without revealing anything except for the fact that Solberg plans to defend his title in the FIA World Rallycross Championship this year, both sides stated that all options are open for the 2017 season.
When it comes to WRC legend Sebastien Loeb, there has been speculation regarding a potential meeting between his representatives and the Toyota WRC team principal, but these have not been confirmed. However, Mäkinen says he is interested in talking to Loeb if the Frenchman wants to do something with them.