Toyota returns to WRC

The sleeping giant has awoken. Toyota will return to the World Rally Championship in 2017.

After months of speculation Toyota confirmed today in Tokyo, Japan, it will again compete in the WRC with German-based racing arm Toyota Motorsports GmbH spearheading the factory effort.

Toyota Motor Corporation has approved the WRC campaign and revealed its future rally machine will certainly be more hostile than the 79kW city car it’ll be based on.

Unveiled today in fresh livery, the all-wheel drive Yaris WRC test vehicle features a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder producing 221kW and 420Nm. The engine’s married to a six-speed sequential transmission and sees 8500rpm before up-shifts.

New resources will be allocated to developing the Yaris WRC as Toyota ramps up to the 2017 debut. More bodies are promised for the car’s engineering crew and Toyota has founded a development driver program with 27-year-old French test driver Eric Camilli its first selection.

Rumours had been circulating about the marque’s return since last year after TMG began testing a Yaris built to current WRC specifications.

Meanwhile Akio Toyoda, company president and well-known petrol head, had been consistently vocal about his desire to get Toyota rallying again. He’s confident the car will reach its planned goals, saying when the car enters WRC in 2017 it will be much more competitive than it is now.

It’s understood Toyota had been waiting on the FIA to lock in technical rules for 2017 in order to reach a decision about its return.

Racing outfit TMG is confident the WRC program will not affect its World Endurance Championship commitment that will see it contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans once again this June after today re-committing to the 2015 season.

When Toyota last contested the WRC in 1999 it claimed four driver’s and three manufacturer’s titles in the space of 10 years.

While Toyota may have left the sport with its head high, Volkswagen’s current dominance and Hyundai’s growing competitiveness means Toyota has a busy two years ahead. And Akio Toyoda knows this: “We’re not announcing a return, but perhaps a start. We must begin again from scratch.” 

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