LAPPI AND HANNIEN SET FOR TOYOTA SEATS
Tommi Makinen’s Toyota team will be led by two Finns next season, with Juho Hanninen and Esapekka Lappi likely to be named at the end of this month.
The team is expected to reveal an updated Yaris WRC at the Paris Motor Show – potentially in the 2017 livery – and sources suggest the driver line-up could be coming at the same time.
As a primary test driver of the Yaris WRC, Makinen has openly admitted that 35-year-old Hanninen would play a role next season. Motorsport News understands Hanninen and his countryman Lappi will both tackle the full calendar with a third car running for an as-yet-unknown driver. The third Yaris won’t be seen, however, until later in the season.
Having come close to landing Kris Meeke at the end of last season, Makinen then had discussions with Thierry Neuville, but couldn’t find an agreement with the Belgian.
Neuville’s future in the sport remains something of a mystery. He is believed to have had offers from both Citroen and Hyundai, but both are multi-year options and this year’s Rally Italy winner is keen on a single-season agreement. His reluctance to sign for either squad means only he and Mads Ostberg, of the current world championship drivers, have yet to test a 2017-specification car.
Lappi, currently under contract with Skoda, admitted he had visited Makinen’s Puuppola factory and told MN soon after: “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.”
Lappi, 25, has yet to make his World Rally Car debut, but Hanninen – a former European, SWRC and IRC champion – has driven for both the Hyundai and M-sport factory teams before switching to Toyota Gazoo Racing.
Makinen: eyeing Hanninen and Lappi