Esapekka Lappi will join Citroen for the 2019 World Rally Championship switching from Toyota Gazoo Racing to partner Sebastien Ogier in an all-new line-up.
The Finnish driver made his premier class WRC for Toyota at the 2017 Rally de Portugal and made history by winning just three outings later at his home round to set a new record for fewest WRC entries before winning.
After another progressive campaign for Toyota this year with three rostrums to his name – all on different surfaces in Sardinia, Germany and Wales – and sitting fourth in the WRC championship, Lappi will move to Citroen for 2019 alongside Ogier.
Lappi is eager to learn from five-time WRC champion Ogier at Citroen and is confident of continuing his strong surge in the premier class.
“Obviously, I'm delighted to be joining the team and to be the future teammate of Sébastien,” Lappi said. “It’s a good opportunity for me to keep developing.
“After having learned many things from Jari-Matti Latvala last year, and from Ott Tänak this year, I'll have everything it takes to be even better if I also manage to draw inspiration from Seb.
“I'm convinced that the car has a lot of potential, as does the team, which has a long history and lot of experience in the WRC. The fact that Pierre clearly wanted to recruit me also counted a lot when it came to making my decision. It's also going to be a great challenge, trying to win together.”
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing team principal, is delighted with his 2019 driver line-up and is confident of fighting on all fronts next season.
“We were keen to sign up two very competitive crews for next year and the arrival of Esapekka is therefore excellent news,” Budar said. “Putting faith in young drivers has long been hard-wired in the DNA of our brand and Esapekka certainly has the ideal profile. Talented, determined and focused, he should form both a complementary – and formidable – pair with Sébastien.
“We feel there is still more to come from him, so we'll be doing what we can to get him in the best possible shape to help him continue his impressive rise through the ranks.”
Toyota has acted swiftly to replace Lappi by taking on Kris Meeke, who was sacked by Citroen earlier this year, effectively making it a straight swap between the two for next season.