Four-time World Rally Championship (WRC) champion Tommy Makinen will be the Team Principal of the Toyota WRC Squad when it returns to the sport in 2017.
According to WRC.com, the team will be run under the name Toyota Gazoo Racing, which operates the company’s title-winning World Endurance Championship circuit racing program, while Toyota president Akio Toyoda will be team chairman.
The news was issued by Toyota from Japan last week. However, the statement made no reference to Toyota Motorsport, which is owned by the parent company. It mentioned a return to WRC on January 30 “with a car developed and built entirely at its Cologne technical center.”
Since then test drivers including Sebastian Lindholm and Stéphane Sarrazin have been developing a Yaris World Rally Car, and TMG has signed development drivers Eric Camilli and Teemu Suninen with an eye to the future.
Mäkinen won 24 world rallies between 1985 and 2003 and four straight drivers’ titles for Mitsubishi from 1996 to 1999.
Mäkinen has run Tommi Mäkinen Racing in Finland since retiring from driving and last year built a private GT86 car for Toyoda that the pair demonstrated at Neste Oil Rally Finland last year.
Toyoda said he was “happy and excited” to have Mäkinen leading the team.
“I first met Tommi in 2013. At that time he was my instructor, helping me improve my driving technique. In the end, he taught me a lot more. He showed me the appeal of rallying and the relationship between vehicle development and rallying,” he said.
“Tommi has abundant experience and fresh ideas for vehicle development, both of which will be valuable assets to us. After talking to Tommi, I felt I want to work with him, I want him to help us make better cars, and that’s how I came to ask for his support with this project. With Tommi behind us, Toyota will forge ahead with our return to WRC and also our efforts to make ever-better cars,” Toyoda added.