Jari-Matti Latvala to take reigns at Toyota Gazoo WRT



The 35-year-old Finn was confirmed on Friday (18 December) following September’s announcement that Mäkinen will stand aside and take on the role of Toyota’s motorsport advisor in 2021.

Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN), Miikka Anttila (FIN) seen during FIA World Rally Championship 2018 in Monte Carlo, Monaco on 26.01.2018 // Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool // AP-1UJY6635H2111 // Usage for editorial use only // Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information. //

The change is part of a revamp in which Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe will take control of the company’s FIA World Rally Championship programme next season from Tommi Mäkinen Racing.

As a driver, Latvala has been part of Toyota’s set-up since the Japanese company returned to the WRC in 2017. He was influential in the development of the Yaris World Rally Car and scored the car’s first win in Sweden on its second start.

He helped the squad win the manufacturers’ world title the following year before his full-time driving role ended after the 2019 season. This year he held an ambassadorial role with TGR.

Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda has thanked outgoing Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Tommi Mäkinen
“This was the last rally for Tommi as the team principal.

“I am very grateful to work with him. When we decided to go back to the WRC, I asked him to help develop a car and to build a team. To be honest, I was thinking that my request was a bit too much of a challenge.“But he did it with only a year of preparation and the team already came in second place in its debut round and won the next round in Sweden. We experienced many difficulties after that, but every single experience had meaning and made our cars stronger.”

“I am really honoured to be taking on this position with the team, and by the trust that Akio Toyoda (team chairman) has shown in me,” said Latvala.

“Iʼm 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. Itʼs a new challenge and Iʼm up for it.

“Tommi has done a fantastic job with the team, building it up from zero and bringing the success that he has. Of course, 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 Rallye Monte-Carlo in January,” he added.

Latvala is the WRC’s most experienced driver with 209 starts to his name. He won 18 rallies and remains the youngest driver to win a WRC round after his success at Rally Sweden in 2008, aged 22 years and 313 days.

He joins a management team which also includes project director Yuichiro Haruna, sporting director Kaj Lindström and technical director Tom Fowler.

It is Latvala’s first managerial role but Toyoda said Latvala’s enthusiasm and approach made him the best choice.

“His ability as a manager is unproven, but the attributes that we have in common between us were the deciding factors for entrusting the team to him. I believe these will bring the strength to the team.

“When thinking about our new team from 2021, Jari-Mattiʼs face first came to my mind. Thatʼs 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 manufacturersʼ title.