Latvala to make comeback in Finland WRC round
By Jason Craig
Monday 3rd July, 2023 - 5:06pm
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Team Principal will make his Rally1 debut in his home round of the FIA World Rally Championship next month, it has been announced.
Describing the chance to compete in a GR Yaris Rally1 as a “huge honour,” Jari-Matti Latvala will take part in Rally Finland from August 3-6.
The news was confirmed in a social media post that was published by the Japanese squad’s media team on Monday morning (UTC) and completes its four-car line-up for Round 9 of the dual-surface competition.
Points-scoring drivers for a rally commonly referred to as ‘the gravel grand prix’ include defending World Rally Champion and current points leader Kalle Rovanpera, Elfyn Evans, and Takamoto Katsuta who moves into the factory-backed Yaris as part of his seat rotation agreement with Sebastien Ogier.
For many months now, Latvala has made no secret of his desire to compete in the hybrid-powered Rally1 division. To date, his only public appearance in the four-wheel-drive supermini has come at a demonstration event in Japan.
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In recent weeks he said he would push for the opportunity to share the stages with the current crop of Rally1 drivers, but admitted an outing would most likely happen in the second half of the current campaign.
Speculation has grown in recent days with some media outlets reporting a deal had been done for Rally Finland, with this confirmed as being the case on Monday.
“I have some big news to share,” said Latvala in a short, pre-recorded video.
“I have received, courtesy of our Chairman Akio Toyoda, a very special opportunity. I will be competing in Rally Finland myself, driving GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid.
“It is a huge honour and I really must say thank you to … He is a huge rally fan and I am sure he will be following the team and my own performance closely.”
To mark the occasion, the 38-year-old told fans to “stay tuned” for a special livery reveal for the GR Yaris Rally1, adding: “I am really looking forward to it.”
Latvala is one of the best-known faces in the World Rally Championship having made a total of 209 starts with M-Sport Ford, Volkswagen Motorsport and his current employer, Toyota Gazoo Racing.
He made his top-flight debut at Wales Rally GB in 2002 and bowed out at the 2020 instalment of Rally Sweden. Over the course of that period, he has accrued 18 victories – three of which have come on home soil – and 67 podiums and set 539 fastest stage times.
In December 2020, he was appointed the new Team Principal of Toyota Gazoo Racing, replacing countryman and title-winning driver Tommi Makinen who had been in the post since 2016.