Latvala succeeds Makinen as head of Toyota rally team

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Paris (AFP)

Jari-Matti Latvala replaces compatriot Finn Tommi Makinen as Toyota Gazoo Racing team manager, the World Rally Championship (WRC) team announced on Friday.

Makinen, who won the WRC driver’s title in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 and has been at the helm since 2016, becomes Toyota’s motorsport advisor.

Under his auspices, the Finland-based team have won the constructors ‘title in 2018 and the drivers’ titles for the past two years, first with Ott Tanak and last season with Sébastien Ogier.

Latvala holds the record for most appearances in WRC races, with 209 starts between 2002 and 2020, but the closest he got to the title was second in 2010, 2014 and 2015.

“His ability as a manager is not proven, but the attributes that we have in common between us were the deciding factors in entrusting him with the team. I think that will give the team strength, ”Toyota boss Akio Toyoda said in a team press release.

Latvala drove his first rally at age 17 in 2002. He drove for the Toyota team in 2018 and 2019. He also drove a Toyota Corolla in a rally in 2006 and a private Yaris in a few races last season .

“I am truly honored to hold this position with the team and the confidence Akio Toyoda has placed in me,” said the 35-year-old.

Seven-time world champion Ogier has extended his contract with Toyota until 2021, which could be the final season of the 37-year-old Frenchman’s WRC career. His teammates will be Welshman Elfyn Evans, finalist in 2020, and Finnish prodigy Kalle Rovanpera, 20.

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