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Kris Meeke named as TOYOTA GAZOO Racing driver in 2019

October 17, 2018

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team is pleased to confirm its driver line-up for the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship season, when it will again enter three Toyota Yaris WRC models on every event.

Ott Tänak will continue to drive the Toyota Yaris WRC next year alongside co-driver Martin Järveoja after joining the team of the 2018 season, during which they have already won on four occasions and are challenging for the drivers’ championship.

Jari-Matti Latvala will also stay with the team. The experienced Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila have been a key part of the team since its debut in Monte Carlo in January 2017. They scored the first podium of Toyota’s WRC return on the very same event, and the first victory just a few weeks later in Sweden. Latvala has achieved four podiums so far this year, including three in the last four rounds.

Joining Tänak and Latvala in the line-up for 2019 will be Kris Meeke. The Northern Irishman is recognised as one of the quickest drivers in the WRC, claiming five rally wins since 2015. Meeke, whose co-driver will be confirmed at a later date, will join TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team to form a fast and experienced driver line-up.

Esapekka Lappi and co-driver Janne Ferm will leave the team following the conclusion of the 2018 season. The pair made their debut in the top category of the WRC with Toyota on Rally Portugal last year, and soon scored their maiden victory at Rally Finland. This season they have taken three podium finishes so far, contributing to the team’s current position in the lead of the manufacturers’ championship. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team would like to thank Esapekka and Janne for their hard work.

Quotes:

Akio Toyoda (Team Chairman)
“To Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm: Thank you for battling together with us as part of our team over the last two years. Your victory at last season’s Rally Finland was outstanding. We were all truly impressed. With your youthful exuberance, Esapekka, you have provided the team with immense motivation. At this year’s Rally Finland, I was able to witness first-hand how much you value your fans, and how much you are loved by them. I am full of gratitude to you for strengthening TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s bond with its supporters.

Co-driver Janne, you were always joking, lightening the mood, and energizing our team. If I hear hearty laughter coming from a rival team’s tent at WRC rallies next year, it will be reassuring to know that both you and Esapekka—our former partners—are flourishing.

I have no doubt that next season Esapekka and Janne will again make us stronger—this time as our rivals. It excites me to think that we will once again have an opportunity to energize the WRC together. Until then, however, let us make sure we fight for this year’s championship to the very end! TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will continue with its efforts to create ever-better cars so that, until the very last stage of the very last rally, both of you will be able to demonstrate your full potential.

Finally, to Kris Meeke, who will join our team from next season: I have great hopes that with your vast experience you will help make the Yaris WRC even better. When you first step into the Yaris WRC, please let us know what you think. Under the leadership of Team Principal Tommi Mäkinen, we will ensure the Yaris WRC can be driven with even greater peace of mind. I trust you will look forward to the start of next season with great excitement.”

Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal)
“We are all very excited to have Kris joining us here at TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. We know that he is very fast, but he also brings a lot of experience. His technical understanding is at a really high level and I believe he can provide new knowledge and ideas to help us in our aim to keep making the Yaris WRC better.

I am also very pleased that Jari-Matti will continue to be part of our team. He has done some brilliant work for us and has recently been regularly on the podium again, which has been very important. Together with Ott, who has proven that he is absolutely one of the fastest drivers right now, I think we have a very strong line-up for next year, with three drivers who are all quick, experienced and can win rallies. I believe we will again have a strong team to fight for both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles.
Lastly, I am very sorry to see that Esapekka has decided to leave us for a new challenge, but we all wish him the best of luck for the future.”

Kris Meeke
“It’s a huge pleasure and honour for me to become a Toyota driver. I’d like to thank Akio Toyoda, Tommi Mäkinen and the entire Toyota team for their faith in me. Three years ago, we first discussed the possibility of me joining the team, and I’m so happy that it’s finally happened now.

The performance of the Yaris WRC speaks for itself, but the team spirit here is incredible at every level, also with the Japanese culture of honour and respect. I can’t wait to get started. I’ve got no particular objectives other than to enjoy my driving again and help Toyota to win a championship.

The very first championship that I won was actually when I was aged 16 and co-driving for my brother on our local road rally championship. We clinched that title in a Toyota Corolla, so for very many reasons, it feels incredibly good to be here. I can’t think of a better place to be.”

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<About Kris Meeke>

  • Date of birth: 2 Jul 1979
  • Age: 39 years old
  • Nationality: British
  • Highlights:
    20053rd overall, FIA Junior WRC
    2009Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion, 4 wins
    2014First WRC podium, Rallye Monte-Carlo
    2015First WRC win, Rally Argentina
    2016Wins Rally Portugal and Rally Finland
    2017Wins Rally Mexico and Rally Spain
  • WRC Statistics:
    WRC starts 91, Victories 5, Podiums 12, Points scored 413, Stage Wins 77
    Q & A about the new contract for 2019 and Kris´ initial thoughts.
    𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝗱𝗼𝗲𝘀 𝗶𝘁 𝗳𝗲𝗲𝗹 𝘁𝗼 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗯𝗮𝗰𝗸?
    It’s just a huge pleasure and honour to be back. Three years ago, I sat down with Tommi Makinen and discussed the possibility of me going there, but at the time it was just a vision. I would have needed to commit to a season without any rallies at first, and at the time, I needed to do a full season because I had never done one up to that point. Tommi understood my point of view, but the simplicity and logic of his vision never went away from me, and even once I had made my decision, part of me wondered if I’d missed an opportunity. So I’m delighted and grateful to have that opportunity again.

    𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗳𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁 𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘁𝗲𝗮𝗺?
    The performance of the car speaks for itself and I can’t wait to be competing with it. Undoubtedly, it’s one of the quickest cars out there and there’s an incredibly strong team behind it.
    But what’s just as important is the culture. There’s a Japanese culture of respect and honour, which is so refreshing and welcoming. I couldn’t think of a better place to be. Everything that Tommi outlined to me when we had that conversation three years ago has come true. He’s done it his way, yet he’s so easy to relate to, and as a four-time champion, he sees everything from a driver’s point of view. It’s a whole environment that I didn’t think was possible any more, to be honest.

    𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝗱𝗶𝗱 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗿𝗲𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗻 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗲 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁?
    Everyone knows what happened earlier this year, and afterwards I decided to stay silent for a while and keep myself to myself. Sometimes it’s best not to react. And during that time, I came to realise that I’d not really enjoyed myself for the previous 18 months. It was an incredible realisation, but I was determined that I wouldn’t let my time in this sport that I loved pass under a cloud. And that made me more motivated and determined than ever, so after Rally Finland I gave all the team principals a call and said that if there was ever an opportunity I would love to hear from them. Obviously the conversation with Tommi continued, and when he asked if I’d like to drive the car, it was an absolute no-brainer.

    𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗼𝗯𝗷𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗳𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁 𝘆𝗲𝗮𝗿 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗮𝗿?
    It’s very straightforward. I want to go back to enjoying myself in a rally car again and help Toyota to win a championship. It’s as simple as that really. I’m not here to rock any boats: instead I’m just incredibly excited about what lies ahead.

    𝗧𝗼𝘆𝗼𝘁𝗮 𝗵𝗮𝘀 𝗮 𝗵𝘂𝗴𝗲 𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗶𝘁𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝗿𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆𝗶𝗻𝗴: 𝗶𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝘆𝗼𝘂?
    Absolutely. When I was growing up, I was a rally fan throughout the height of the Toyota era in the past, with legends like Carlos Sainz, Didier Auriol and Juha Kankkunen. To be following in that tradition, behind all those incredible names, is awesome. And in fact, the very first championship that I won was in a Toyota, back when I was 16 and co-driving for my brother. Together we did the road rally championship and we actually won it in a 1986 Corolla. So for many reasons, it feels really good to be here.”

Source:
toyotagazooracing.com

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