Toyota launches new project – Mikko Hirvonen plays a major role

Toyota's rally team is once again searching for new drivers and co-drivers from Japan.
Toyota is once again looking for drivers and co-drivers from Japan. Mikko Hirvonen has a significant role in the project. Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing
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Toyota Gazoo Racing is launching a new programme aimed at discovering new drivers and co-drivers for the WRC.

Toyota first launched the WRC Challenge Programme in 2015 before the manufacturer returned to the WRC.

From this programme, established in 2015, Toyota has already promoted one driver to the main class of the WRC. Takamoto Katsuta is competing in all races this season, and his development has been promising. Katsuta has reached the podium five times in the WRC.

Following in Katsuta’s footsteps are Hikaru Kogure and Yuki Yamamoto. They have already driven the team’s Rally2 cars this season and are gaining valuable experience in the European Rally Championship as well.

Belonging to the so-called third generation are Masataro Goto and Takumi Matsushita. They have been training in Finland and are expected to debut in Europe this year with Rally4 cars.

The search for the fourth generation will begin in October. Applications will be accepted from the first of July. Toyota will organise a test drive event at Fuji Speedway, selecting suitable candidates from up to one hundred drivers. The selected drivers will then showcase their skills in Finland in December this year.

Toyota is also organising a similar programme for co-drivers. Prospective co-drivers will undergo an interview process, with the final selections being made in Japan at the end of October.

The selected co-drivers and drivers will start Toyota’s driver programme at the beginning of 2025. The team’s goal is, of course, to find drivers and co-drivers who can represent the Japanese manufacturer in the WRC in the future.

The new talents will receive the best possible training, as they will be coached by Mikko Hirvonen, who has competed in the WRC for many years.

“We wanted to launch such a programme for the second consecutive year because we want to provide opportunities to as many young people as possible”, Hirvonen said.

“Last year’s selection process was a very good experience for our team, and we discovered several very promising talents through it”, Hirvonen continued.

Hirvonen has plenty of work ahead in this project, as those selected for the driver programme are usually still quite inexperienced, although they show great potential.

“We welcome all applicants who would otherwise find it difficult to reach such a high level in motorsport without this opportunity. In fact, the third-generation applicants had very limited experience before joining the programme, but we have encountered athletes with very high potential”, Hirvonen explained.

Toyota is constructing a large technology centre on the border of Laukaa in Central Finland. The area will also include a testing site that can certainly be utilised in the future for training young promising drivers. In addition, the Japanese manufacturer also has a separate testing site in Finland.

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