If all goes well we could see as many as 12 top level Rally1 cars competing on several rounds of the 2024 World Rally Championship. If things go badly it could be as low as six. But who will be in those cars, and what will they be?
Updated: Monday 20 November 2023 at 11:20am. Double World Rally Champion Kalle Rovanperä will not defend his title with a full season drive at Toyota, it has been announced.
The 23-year-old has signed a ‘multi-year’ deal to remain with Toyota, but will drive only half the rounds of the 2024 WRC season. Rovanperä has begun a career in drifting in 2023, and while still committed to rallying is expected to use the time away from the WRC to spend more time in his new sport.
The rest of the Toyota WRC team will remain the same for 2024, with 2023 championship runner-up Elfyn Evans returning for a full campaign alongside Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta.
Sebastien Ogier will also return for another part-time season with Toyota. The eight-time WRC Champion won three rallies in 2023 and has been enjoying his partial campaigns, which have also been dovetailed with some sportscar racing in WEC.
Updated: Thursday 16th November at 12:30. Esapekka Lappi with continue to rally with Hyundai in the WRC in 2024, but will step back from his 2023 full-time programme to a part-time shared seat.
The Finn joined Hyundai full-time for 2023 after a part-time programme for Toyota the previous season. After an early-year run of podiums his campaign has gone off the boil in the second half following a run of serious crashes.
After Hyundai re-signed 2019 World Champion Ott Tanak for 2024 it seemed likely that there would not be a full-time place for Lappi in 2024 and this was confirmed by Lappi and the team.
Hyundai is still to decide on whether it looks to run four cars in 2024 – as rival Toyota has done several times this year – and is yet to announce whether fellow part-time driver Dani Sordo will be retained for 2024.
8. Ott Tänak
11. Thierry Neuville
4. Esapekka Lappi
Very few of the potential places on the WRC have been confirmed for the 2024 season as we write this. That’s mostly because there are still rounds left to go on the current 2023 calendar, but there is also uncertainty still hangs over the future of the championship’s teams.
Which teams will be in the WRC in 2024?
Toyota and Hyundai in Rally1. That’s it for certain. M-Sport Ford currently has a question mark hanging over it, the company has lost its main driver for the new season – with Ott Tänak making the slightly surprising move back to Hyundai for 2024 – and has been honest about budget issues that it faces. It could be that in 2024 we still see the Puma Rally on the stages, but in more privateer funded hands.
Which drivers are confirmed for WRC 2024?
Thierry Neuville has long been a confirmed driver for Hyundai for next season, and he will be joined by 2019 world champion Ott Tänak, who returns to the team after a year away at M-Sport.
Which places are up for grabs in WRC 2023?
Beyond that no one has been confirmed. It would seem bonkers to think that current world champion and likely 2024 winner Kalle Rovanperä won’t return to defend his title with Toyota. Meanwhile Elfyn Evans’ renewed confidence in 2023 has seen him become the only real challenger to his phenomena of a team-mate, which suggests he too will be retained.
Takamoto Katsuta’s first season as a full-time WRC driver has been more difficult than we might have expected, but with Toyota’s backing through his career so far and impressive previous years it seems logical that he will return. Eight-time champion Sebastian Ogier also seems set to return for a part-time campaign again.
Then there’s the question of the final place at Hyundai and whether there will be another one added. Since joining the team, new principal Cyril Abiteboul (he of Drive to Survive fights with Christian Horner over Daniel Ricciardo and engines at Renault), has changed the culture enough to entice Ott Tanak back and re-instated Hyundai’s young driver programme.
The second car this year has been in the hands of Esapekka Lappi, who has shown flashes of the excellent pace that we all know he has, but also managed to destroy a car or two. With Tanak joining, the question is whether Hyundai wants to add another car to give Lappi another full season. If so it will most likely be a four-car effort, with the final car reserved for a mixture of Dani Sordo and Hyundai’s young drivers – including the likes of Timo Suninen.
If M-Sport does find the cash to continue, it will be interesting to see who drives its cars. Adrian Formaux had that chance in 2022 but struggled and was demoted to WRC2 and local rallies for 2023. His replacement Pierre-Louis Loubet then also struggled to adapt to a full-time WRC drive. Both are extremely talented young drivers in real need of opportunities, so no matter what, there’s a tough decision for Malcolm Wilson and his team.
Are any drivers leaving the WRC for 2024?
One is definitely. Jourdan Serderidis, the Greco-Belgian privateer who ran one of M-Sport’s Pumas through the last few seasons has elected to retire from driving at the end of 2023. Serderidis might not have been anywhere near as fast as the pros on the stages, but his smile and relationship with his co-driver will be missed, and of course the money he was willing to put in to ensure there was another car on the grid.