Jari-Matti Latvala will compete with the returning Toyota Gazoo Racing team for the 2017 World Rally Championship, it has been announced.
The second signing for Toyota ahead of its comeback season, Latvala switches to the manufacturer following Volkswagen's sudden exit from the WRC after four years.
Latvala joins the already-confirmed Juho Hanninen in campaigning a Yaris WRC, with Toyota – returning to the WRC after an absence of 16 years – set to enter a third car for WRC2 front runner Esapekka Lappi.
The plans come as Latvala's former team-mates Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen agonise over their 2017 options following VW's late decision to quit having largely dominated for the four seasons of its presence in the series.
With Hyundai having signed its three drivers and Citroen – returning to WRC in a manufacturer capacity with the new C3 after a year out – expecting to focus on its four car line-up, Ogier and Mikkelsen's options are being reduced to M-Sport Ford and a potential privateer VW entry.
Despite its withdrawal, VW has homologated its new specification Polo R WRC, with a potential Middle East-funded effort coming forward as a potential option for both drivers.
Talking to Autocar
, VW Motorsport Director Wolfgang Durheimer says it will make its expertise available to any prospective outfit to ensure any Polo is competitive.
"Whatever they want, our expertise will be available to hire. I hope the deal will be done to have a team in Monte Carlo in January, and competing in the entire championship.
“If that happens, it will be a wonderful story - the team will be considered the underdogs and will be welcomed by fans. If they do it right, it could be an incredible story."