The announcement that world champion Kalle Rovanperä will compete on a part-time basis next year sent shockwaves through the World Rally Championship on Monday.
Eight-time WRC event winner Elfyn Evans and Toyota’s homegrown talent Takamoto Katsuta will now be Toyota’s only full-time drivers in 2024. Ostensibly, Rovanperä will share a third car with eight-time champion Sébastien Ogier, who has had a part-time role for the past two seasons.
Once over the initial shock, the question on many people’s lips was how will the two world champions’ programs be split?
Ogier has already given a strong hint that he will be seeking a record-extending 10th win on January’s Monte Carlo Rally, while it would seem a pretty safe bet that Rovanperä will contest the likes of Rally Latvia and Rally Finland.
But what if they both want to do the same event? And does the news mean that there will be even fewer Rally1 cars on some rounds of the championship next year if Toyota no longer needs to run a fourth car to accommodate Ogier?
Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala was quick to allay such fears. Exact details of how many – and which – events Rovanperä and Ogier will contest have yet to be agreed, but there remains scope for Rovanperä and Ogier to both appear at some events.
And where that isn’t the case, it provides an opportunity for Toyota to run a customer car – as it did for Lorenzo Bertelli on Rally Sweden this year.
“There might be even some rally where we have four cars driving,” confirmed Latvala. “So it’s even a possibility that Kalle and Séb will be in the same event, even [though] they are splitting the season.
“And if that is happening, we can also see a customer car there. We have been speaking with some of the customers and there’s a lot of interest for our car.
“In the ’23 season, we have had customers, so now it’s something what we are also excited to say that we have a car available for drivers to experience Rally1 in the World Rally Championship.”