Toyota have confirmed this morning that M-Sport’s Ott Tanak has signed to drive the Yaris WRC for the 2018 season. Joining Jari-Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi for a three car team next season.
Ott Tanak took his first WRC win this season in the M-Sport Fiesta in Sardinia. After the gravel event he later on went to achieve a 2nd victory on the tarmac roads of Rally Germany. Proving he has speed and pace on all surfaces, which has made him hot property for the other teams.
Toyota’s 2018 three car team line-up means that, Juho Hanninen will no long be driving for the team and will also miss Rally Australia – despite his improved performance in the second half of the season.
Juho’s Co-Driver Kaj Lindstrom will take up a new role of sporting director for the Toyota team. A job that was previously done by Mikko Hirvonen’s ex co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen until he left earlier in the season.
Tommi Mäkinen, Team Principal of Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC team said, “We’re delighted to have secured the services of Ott, having had our eyes on him for a while. He represents the perfect blend of youth and experience, together with the right sort of mental attitude that means he will fit into our team very well. Like the Yaris WRC, Ott has exceeded all expectations this year, so I’m sure it will be a strong partnership with both speed and consistency on all surfaces. I’d also like to congratulate Kaj on his new role. One of my favourite memories of my own driving career is our win in Monte-Carlo together; from this, and the experience of working with him since, I know that Kaj is the ultimate professional and he is sure to be a strong asset as we continue our team’s development. Finally, I would like to express my thanks and appreciation for everything that Juho has done for us. He will always be a member of our family, and has played an important part in taking us to where we are today.”
M-Sport Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said: “It is with a heavy heart that the team say goodbye to Ott and Martin who have been such an important part of our success this year. There’s arguably been no other driver who I have put as much faith in – or given as many chances – but I recognised his potential straight away.
“He has always been quick. From the moment he first came to my attention there was no doubting his speed, and in recent years he has developed into the full package – a rally winner and a potential championship contender.
“It’s not easy to say goodbye, but it’s time for Ott to experience pastures new and we wish both him and Martin the very best for the future. Until then, there remain two very important events and I know that Ott and Martin will be giving their all to end their time with the M-Sport family on a high.”