Toyota has confirmed Kris Meeke in its line-up for the 2019 World Rally Championship season.
The Finnish-based squad communicated Meeke’s signing on Wednesday morning, while Jari-Matti Latvala will also remain in a factory Yaris WRC alongside Ott Tanak, who was already under contract.
Meeke effectively replaces Esapekka Lappi, who has been announced as Sebastien Ogier's teammate at Citroen in 2019.
“It’s a huge pleasure and honour for me to become a Toyota driver,” said Meeke, who drove the Yaris WRC in Finland on Tuesday.
“I’d like to thank [Toyota Motor Corporation president] Akio Toyoda, [team principal] Tommi Makinen and the entire Toyota team for their faith in me.
“Three years ago, we first discussed the possibility of me joining the team and I’m so happy that it’s finally happened now.”
Despite having been absent from the WRC since losing his Citroen drive after May's Rally Portugal, Meeke has followed the fortunes of Toyota, watching as Tanak put together a hat-trick of summer wins and dominated the early running on Wales Rally GB earlier this month.
Meeke added: “The performance of the Yaris WRC speaks for itself, but the team spirit here is incredible at every level, also with the Japanese culture of honour and respect.
"I can’t wait to get started. I’ve got no particular objectives other than to enjoy my driving again and help Toyota to win a championship.”
The five-time WRC winner talked of his career coming full circle, adding: “The very first championship I won was actually when I was 16 and co-driving for my brother on our local road rally championship.
"We clinched that title in a Toyota Corolla, so for very many reasons, it feels incredibly good to be here. I can’t think of a better place to be.
Makinen admitted it wasn’t just Meeke’s speed that made him irresistible, but also his ability to develop the car further.
“We are all very excited to have Kris joining us here at Toyota Gazoo Racing,” said Makinen. “We know he is very fast, but he also brings a lot of experience.
"His technical understanding is at a really high level and I believe he can provide new knowledge and ideas to help us in our aim to keep making the Yaris WRC better.
“I am also very pleased that Jari-Matti will continue to be part of our team. He has done some brilliant work for us and has recently been regularly on the podium again, which has been very important.
“Together with Ott, who has proven that he is absolutely one of the fastest drivers right now, I think we have a very strong line-up for next year, with three drivers who are all quick, experienced and can win rallies.
"I believe we will again have a strong team to fight for both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles.”
2019 WRC line-up so far:
|Hyundai|| Thierry Neuville |
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