Toyota GAZOO Racing will field three new drivers for the 2020 FIA World Rally Championship, with Sebastien Ogier, Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanperä all joining the team.
After Ott Tänak’s departure to Hyundai confirmed after Rally Spain, the team were left without a leading driver but have now revealed they’ve secured Ogier’s signature following Citroen’s decision to leave the championship earlier this month.
Joining the six-time WRC winner in what looks set to be one of the most exciting line-ups in recent years is Evans; the Welshman moving from M-Sport Ford where he has spent his entire WRC career to date and defending WRC2 PRO champion Rovanperä, who completes the team as he embarks on his first top-flight WRC season at the age of just 19.
Toyota GAZOO Racing Team Principal Tommi Mäkinen said on the news: “I’m really pleased with the driver line-up we have been able to put together for next season. I believe it provides us with a great balance in our team as we target more championship trophies next year and in the future.”
“We know how strong Sébastien is and we’re all looking forward to working with him and Julien (Ingrassia). I think that being able to attract a driver with his record says a lot about what we have achieved in such a short space of time with this team.”
He continued on the new line-up: “Elfyn is a driver I have been watching for some time. We’ve seen that he can have the speed to win on almost any surface, but he can also be very clever when needed and score good points. I’ve known Kalle since he was very young and it’s always been clear that he has something special. He still has lots to learn, but I believe that he is ready for this step now.”
With Ogier and Evans signed by the team, it means the duo are reunited after the Frenchman’s title winning season in 2018 while at M-Sport and he said on the deal to drive for Toyota: “I’m definitely very excited to be joining this team. It’s another new challenge for me and I’m looking forward to it. We already discussed it at the end of 2016, and although we didn’t manage to make it happen at that time, I’m now overwhelmed to start working with such an iconic brand as Toyota as well as my childhood idol Tommi Mäkinen.”
Evans meanwhile, who will drive something different from a Ford for the first time in the WRC in 2020 commented: “Joining TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is a great opportunity for me and I’m really excited to get going. The team has been very successful since it came into the sport three years ago and I’m looking forward to be a part of it. Tommi has been very successful as a driver himself and knows what it takes to perform at this level. It’s been great to deal with him so far, and I’m looking forward to getting to know the team better as we ramp up towards the start of next season.”
Having driven for Skoda in WRC2 in recent seasons including taking the title win in 2019, Rovanperä will finally make his debut in the highest class of the WRC next year and the young Finn admitted: “I’m really excited to be joining the team. I think the goal for any young rally driver is to have a seat in a World Rally Car and now that chance is coming for me.”
“It has been great for me to see how Tommi has been trusting me already when I first tested the car a few years ago, and it’s now really nice to be fully a part of his team. I’m sure that next year is going be quite demanding: The biggest challenges will be to learn the new car and also the rallies that are new on the calendar. For sure, the beginning will be all “about learning the car and the speed and everything that comes with it.”
The trio replace the outgoing Tänak, Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala, with the latter duo’s WRC careers in jeopardy following the announcement.