New World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier has paid tribute to his outgoing team principal at Toyota, Tommi Mäkinen, telling DirtFish he would have loved for Mäkinen to have stayed on for Ogier’s final season in the World Rally Championship next year.
Despite competing against the manufacturer in his driving career – driving for Japanese rivals Nissan, Mitsubishi and Subaru – Mäkinen and his Tommi Mäkinen Racing division has been at the helm of Toyota’s WRC effort since the marque decided it was going to return to the top level of rallying for the 2017 season.
It has been a hugely successful program, with Jari-Matti Latvala giving the Yaris WRC its first victory on just its second outing before three championship titles were later claimed. Latvala, Esapekka Lappi and Ott Tänak guided Toyota to the manufacturers’ crown in 2018 before Tänak and Ogier won a driver’s title each in 2019 and ’20 respectively.
But Mäkinen is leaving his role as team principal and will assume a new position with Toyota in 2021 as it takes its WRC effort in-house. Key figures like sporting director Kaj Lindström and technical director Tom Fowler will however remain with the team.
Ogier described his season working with Mäkinen as “great”, adding that “he can have a big, big congratulations” for all his achievements.
“Honestly [our time together has been] shorter than we would have loved to but the little time we have together, I mean obviously he has massive experience in this sport and it’s always interesting to share some stuff together, some ideas together,” Ogier told DirtFish.
“He’s passionate still and I think he put a lot of energy also in this team. I think he can have a big, big congratulations for the achievement. They won the title already last year, one more this season.
“OK this season we are not manufacturers’ champions but I feel we kind of are manufacturers’ champions because we have a one-two of Toyota drivers [in the standings] so for me it’s still a bit weird we are not manufacturers’ champions but that’s another story.
“Tommi, I would have loved that he carried on also with us but I’m sure he also wants to maybe make different things and I’m sure he will also be involved somehow and we can see each other again.”