Finnish pair set for Toyota 2017 WRC seats

Finnish pair set for Toyota 2017 WRC seats
By AutoSport

22/09/2016 at 11:58

Toyota's return to the World Rally Championship will be fronted by two Finns, with Esapekka Lappi expected to be announced alongside Juho Hanninen as a 2017 factory Yaris WRC driver.

Hanninen has long been part of team boss Tommi Makinen's plans, having played an extensive role in the test programme.

The 35-year-old former factory Hyundai WRC driver won Intercontinental Rally Challenge, Super 2000 WRC and European Rally Championship titles between 2010 and '12.

Lappi has never driven a top-level WRC car but won the 2014 ERC title and has been at the forefront of rallying's second-tier categories since joining Skoda's works team four years ago.

Currently under contract with Skoda, Lappi admitted he had visited Makinen's factory.

"I have been at the workshop, Tommi invited me to come and see the car," he told Autosport shortly afterwards.

"Toyota would be interesting for me, but they are interesting for many other drivers as well.

"This is not our decision to make, but I would like [to drive there] next year."

Toyota is not expected to run three cars on all WRC rounds next year - most likely is that two Yaris WRCs will start the season, with a third coming from the fourth round onwards.

After negotiations broke down with Kris Meeke at the end of last year, Toyota had been talking to Thierry Neuville about the Belgian making the switch from Hyundai - but Makinen was reportedly unwilling to meet the Rally Italy winner's demands.

Next year will be Toyota's first season back in rallying since it departed as manufacturers' champion in 1999.

2017 WRC DRIVER LINE-UP SO FAR

Volkswagen: Sebastien Ogier, Andreas Mikkelsen, Jari-Matti Latvala

Hyundai: Hayden Paddon, Dani Sordo, tba

Citroen: Kris Meeke, tba, tba

M-Sport: Eric Camilli, tba

Toyota: Juho Hanninen*, Esapekka Lappi*

* To be officially confirmed

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