FILE PHOTO: Finnish driver Esapekka Lappi at the service area of WRC Rally Finland in Jyvaskyla, Finland July 28, 2018. Markku Ulander/Lehtikuva/via REUTERS
October 7, 2021
(Reuters) – Seven times world champion Sebastien Ogier will continue to race for Toyota in selected rallies next year, with Finland’s Esapekka Lappi stepping up for those rounds the Frenchman misses.
Ogier, 37, is ending his full-time world rally championship career at the end of 2021, a season that looks likely to bring him an eighth title in nine years, when co-driver Julien Ingrassia will retire.
“I’m looking forward to having more time with my family after this year, but at the same time I’m very happy to remain with Toyota…and having the chance to compete in some rallies next year,” said Ogier in a team statement on Thursday.
“I’m very thankful to the team for giving me this opportunity to keep doing on a partial basis what I love to do.
“The schedule of events is not clear yet, but I will do my best to help the team in the manufacturers’ championship and to develop the car.”
Toyota said Welshman Elfyn Evans, 32, and Finland’s Kalle Rovanpera, 21, had signed fresh contracts and would contest all 13 championship rounds in what will be a new hybrid era for the sport.
Benjamin Veillas, who has worked with Ogier in testing, will replace Ingrassia.
Lappi drove a privately entered Toyota in last weekend’s Finland Rally. He previously raced for the works team in 2017, before joining Citroen and then M-Sport Ford.
“I believe he is the perfect driver to share the seat with Seb, to help us in the championship but also be there to fight for victories himself,” said Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing by Hugh Lawson)