Esapekka Lappi and Dani Sordo have emerged as the key contenders to share a Toyota Yaris WRC with Sébastien Ogier next season.
If Ogier tackles a part-WRC program in 2022 – either as a standalone or as part of a wider campaign encompassing endurance and off-road with Toyota – a fill-in driver will be needed.
Toyota technical director Tom Fowler said Ogier’s decision about 2022 would have a direct influence on who might join the team.
“It comes down to what Séb wants to do,” said Fowler. “If he wants to do a very small number of rallies, it becomes quite awkward to cover the entry on that car on the other rallies. If, on the other hand, he wanted to do approaching half the number of rallies then it gets much easier.
“The number of drivers we need to speak to kind of depends on Séb and how many and which rallies he wants to do.”
Rumors of a Lappi return (he drove for Toyota through 2017 and 2018) or a Sordo switch from Hyundai Motorsport have been growing in recent weeks.
“I can understand why people might have mentioned Dani Sordo in relation to such a position [with Toyota] because he’s operating that kind of fill-in driver role at the moment,” said Fowler.
“I heard these rumors about Dani and I’m not going to say if they’re just rumors or not.”
DirtFish understands contact has already been made between Lappi and Toyota.
“Our team principal [Jari-Matti Latvala] and Lappi know each other quite well,” said Fowler. “And I think [Latvala] feels Esapekka would be a good choice. I’m sure they’re already talking.
“But, again, this comes back to the Ogier question. We’ve got three cars and, hopefully, our two other drivers are clear [Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanperä] and the third one, we need someone to do some rallies and that’s not doing all of the season.
“It depends if he [Lappi] is interested in that sort of role.”
Asked about Lappi’s domination of the two WRC2 rounds (Arctic Rally Finland and Rally Portugal) he’s done this year, Fowler was fulsome in his praise for his former colleague.
“He’s been impressive,” said Fowler. “He’s gone back along with certain other drivers who reverted to Rally2 to fill in their season and demonstrate their abilities. But of those drivers, Lappi really has demonstrated his capabilities.
“The way he approaches the sport is quite different from some of the others. Some drivers live rallying and they’re in it all of the time – their mind is completely obsessed by it.
“Lappi is a professional rally driver, dedicated to his sport and his job, but he can switch away and do something else. He’s gone away, he’s been building a house and then he’s said: “OK, I’m going to do some rallies now…”
“He’s come back, switched it on and bosh, he’s right there in the top. He has, a little bit, blown the doors off the thing.”
What do you reckon? Would Lappi be a good fit at Toyota, and should Sordo leave Hyundai for the team?
Let us know in the comments section below.