Toyota has revealed that it will make its return to the World Rally Championship in 2017 and may be coming back with three cars.
The Japanese automaker hasn't competed in the rallying series in 17 years, and team principal Tommi Makinen said that the company will return with an all-new Toyota Yaris, Motorsport reported. Makinen, a four-time WRC champion, added that Toyota has already started talks with potential drivers.
"We are in discussions with various drivers for 2017, bearing in mind that we hope to enter at least two, if not three, vehicles into the championship," he said.
Makinen's Finland-based team has started designing the first Yaris and is doing their best to meet their schedule and build a winning car, according to WRC.com.
"Testing is due to start during spring 2016. An extensive schedule has already been drawn up in order to hold tests in Finland and around the world," Makinen said.
Those wondering if the comeback would include Toyota Motorsport (TMG), based in Colgone, Germany, which build the automaker's cars for the WRC until its final season in 1999, finally received their answer.
"TMG is a key partner for us. It is responsible for designing and producing the Yaris WRC's engine, which will be an exclusively Toyota unit," Makinen said, according to Motorsport.
Others involved in Toyota's return to the WRC include former co-driver to Mikko Hirvonen, Jarmo Lehtinen, as sporting director, Lauri Riipinen, who Makinen worked with from 2005 to 2013, as operations director, and Tommi Makinen racing engineer Mikko as chief of electronics, WRC.com noted.
The team will also be joined by rally engineer Michael Zotos as technical director, Simon Carrier, who was in charge of the Ford Focus RS design team at M-sport, as chief designer, and Tom Fowler, Hirvonen's engineer at Ford, as chief of engineering.