As expected, Esapekka Lappi has been confirmed as a Toyota driver for the 2022 World Rally Championship season along with Elfyn Evans, Kalle Rovanperä and Sébastien Ogier who Lappi is likely to share a Yaris Rally1 with.
Toyota’s announcement follows a flurry of reveals from its two rivals M-Sport and Hyundai. M-Sport unveiled Craig Breen as its leader driver for 2022 on Wednesday which was followed by Hyundai announcing that Dani Sordo and Oliver Solberg will share a third i20.
Lappi, who drove for Toyota in 2017 and ’18 before an ill-fated switch to Citroën for 2019, had been without a factory drive in 2021 but drove a rented Yaris WRC to fourth on last weekend’s Rally Finland.
He is expected to contest the rallies Ogier – who is stepping back from full-time WRC competition next year – doesn’t do.
“It feels like I’m coming home,” Lappi said. “I have some great memories from the past and it was really nice to work with people from the team again at Rally Finland.
“As soon as I got back into the Yaris WRC, it felt again like this was my car. Of course, for next year we will have a new car and although I have not driven it yet, it seems like it will be very different with the new regulations. But it will be interesting to be a part of it and I’m very excited about the future.”
It’s unclear which rallies Lappi will drive next season as Ogier’s program is yet to be determined, but the seven-time champion – who could become an eight-time champion on next weekend’s Rally Spain – said he is “very happy” to have the chance to do some WRC rallies next season.
“I’m very thankful to the team for giving me this opportunity to keep doing on a partial basis what I love to do,” Ogier said.
“The schedule of events is not clear yet, but I will do my best to help the team in the manufacturers’ championship and to develop the car. I’m excited to see what this new generation of cars bring to the sport and I know the team is putting a lot of effort into it.”
Team principal Jari-Matti Latvala believes Ogier will remain “really valuable” to the team and is backing both Evans and Rovanperä to fight for the championship. He expects Lappi will be capable of fighting for wins.
“I’m delighted to bring Esapekka back into the team,” Latvala said.
“He proved with us before that he can win, and since then I think he has been growing a lot. His motivation is very high, and he showed his speed on his return last weekend.
“I believe he is the perfect driver to share the seat with Séb, to help us in the championship but also be there to fight for victories himself.”
Takamoto Katsuta won’t be eligible to score points for Toyota in the manufacturers’ championship but is tipped to remain part of the team’s set-up in another Yaris Rally1.
WRC 2022 driver line-up:
Toyota Gazoo Racing
Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin
Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen
Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm
Sébastien Ogier/Benjamin Veillas
Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe
Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja
Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera
Craig Breen/Paul Nagle