(Reuters) – Six-times rally world champion Sebastien Ogier will race for Toyota next season in an all-new driver lineup after the departure of 2019 title winner Ott Tanak.
The 35-year-old Frenchman, who competed with Citroen this season, will join Welsh driver Elfyn Evans and 19-year-old Finnish rookie Kalle Rovanpera at the team based in Cologne, Germany.
Ogier won six titles in succession before Estonian Tanak, who has moved to new champions Hyundai, secured this year’s title.
“We know how strong Sebastien is and we’re all looking forward to working with him and (co-driver) Julien (Ingrassia),” said team boss Tommi Makinen, a retired four-times world champion.
“I think that being able to attract a driver with his record says a lot about what we have achieved in such a short space of time with this team.”
Ogier had discussed joining Toyota at the end of 2016, when he ended up leaving Volkswagen for M-Sport Ford, and said he felt ‘overwhelmed’ at the prospect of working with boyhood idol Makinen.
The one-year deal could be his last, having spoken previously of retirement after 2020.
Evans joins from M-Sport Ford, who had hoped to retain his services.
Apart from Tanak, Finnish driver Jari-Matti Latvala and 40-year-old Northern Irishman Kris Meeke will also be departing Toyota.
M-Sport are the only team with a vacant seat after Citroen announced last week they were leaving the championship, and they have plenty of choice.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Christian Radnedge)