Toyota interested in VW drivers for its 2017 WRC return

Tommi Makinen will approach all three Volkswagen refugees about 2017 Toyota World Rally Championship seats, but Juho Hanninen's drive is safe

Toyota interested in VW drivers for its 2017 WRC return

Champion Sebastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen have been released onto what had seemed a settled WRC driver market with VW's decision to quit the series after 2016.

Hanninen has carried out the majority of testing on the all-new Yaris and has been confirmed for all rounds of next year's championship.

With budget understood to be no problem for the Toyota programme, there had been speculation that team boss Makinen could swoop for the ex-VW trio.

"Inside our camp we are investigating the possibility to discuss different options," Makinen told Autosport.

"Naturally, we are very interested in the three drivers.

"We are building towards our preparations for 2018, but we are looking for success as soon as possible.

"It might be possible to take one of those drivers and we will see if this strengthens those possibilities."

However, Makinen said car availability limited the possibilities and Hanninen's presence was vital for development, meaning only one full-season vacancy exists.

"The plan is to bring the third car for Corsica in April," he added.

"We will run two cars on a full programme and a third car on a limited programme.

"Juho will drive on all of the rallies; we need his feedback and we need him to analyse what the car is doing and how it compared to the testing we have done."

Current Skoda WRC2 driver Esapekka Lappi was expected to secure the second full-time Toyota seat alongside Hanninen.

But the 2014 European champion admitted VW's exit had harmed his prospects.

"These three are the best rally drivers in the world and they are free," Lappi told Finnish media.

"I do not have enough to fight them, so it is obvious that they may have preference."

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