Toyota Gazoo Racing has confirmed Ott Tanak will drive a Yaris WRC next season.
Tanak will form a three-car 2018 team with Jari-Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi – leaving Juho Hanninen out in the cold.
Hanninen is also expected to miss the final round of this year’s series in Australia, with his co-driver Kaj Lindstrom taking up his new role as sporting director with the team at the Coffs Harbour event.
Toyota’s Tommi Makinen has been pushing hard for Tanak’s signature and identified the two-time world rally winner as the driver he wanted for the future early this season.
Makinen said: “We’re delighted to have secured the services of Ott, having had our eyes on him for a while. He represents the perfect blend of youth and experience, together with the right sort of mental attitude that means he will fit into our team very well.
“Like the Yaris WRC, Ott has exceeded all expectations this year, so I’m sure it will be a strong partnership with both speed and consistency on all surfaces.
“I would like to express my thanks and appreciation for everything that Juho has done for us. He will always be a member of our family and has played an important part in taking us to where we are today.”
M-Sport team principal Malcolm Wilson admitted he would miss Tanak and co-driver Martin Jarveoja.
“It is with a heavy heart that the team say goodbye to Ott and Martin who have been such an important part of our success this year,” said Wilson.
The Cumbrian, who dropped Tanak from his main team twice, kept the faith and ultimately reaped the reward.
Wilson added: “There’s arguably been no other driver who I have put as much faith in – or given as many chances – but I recognised his potential straight away.
“He has always been quick. From the moment he first came to my attention there was no doubting his speed, and in recent years he has developed into the full package – a rally winner and a potential championship contender.
“It’s not easy to say goodbye, but it’s time for Ott to experience pastures new and we wish both him and Martin the very best for the future. Until then, there remain two very important events and I know that Ott and Martin will be giving their all to end their time with the M-Sport family on a high.”
Tanak goes to M-Sport’s home round of the World Rally Championship in Wales next week with a chance to help his current employer lift the manufacturers’ title.
Tanak himself remains in with an outside chance of the drivers’ title and currently sits 37 points adrift of teammate Sebastien Ogier with two rallies remaining.