World Rally Championship (WRC) drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hänninen will join Toyota as the Japanese automaker returns to top-flight rallying after an 18-year absence, when the season starts in Monte Carlo next month. With 169 rally starts and 16 WRC wins, three-time WRC runner-up Latvala is joined by co-driver Miikka Anttila.

The team’s second driver, Juho Hänninen, has been part of the Yaris WRC’s development from the outset, and will be joined by co-driver Kaj Lindström. Recent WRC2-class champion Esapekka Lappi will join the Toyota rally team as test driver for the 2017 season.

“I started my rally career in a Toyota Corolla GT back in 2001 and my first competitive outing in a World Rally Car was behind the wheel of a Corolla WRC in 2003 in Estonia. So, in many ways, it feels like I’m coming home,” Latvala said.

“Because they involve competition on all types of roads, rallies are the optimal stage on which to hone the capabilities of both people and cars. Toyota has not been seen on that stage for a long time, but I’m truly happy that we’re back,” said Akio Toyoda, team chairman and global Toyota president.

As for the car itself, the Yaris WRC will be powered by a 1.6 litre turbocharged engine with 36 mm air restrictors (up from 33 mm in previous regulations), resulting in a power output of 380 hp. Regulations have also been relaxed to allow an active centre differential, while minimum weight has been reduced by 25 kg. The new regulations also allow for more elaborate aero setups, aiming to produce more exciting racing.

“The Yaris WRC is a well-designed car with incredible potential. The new regulations allow for much greater freedom in terms of development. Although we have yet to explore all the possibilities, we can say that the car is reliable and quick. I really can’t wait to see the results in racing conditions,” said team principal and four-time WRC champion Tommi Mäkinen.