toyota-wrc-heroes

It wasn’t that long ago when the WRC felt like a deserted place, a two-horse race between Citroen and Ford. However, the top rally series has seen a recent revival with major carmakers such as MINI, Hyundai and Volkswagen coming in to try and win on Sunday, sell on Monday. They will soon be joined by the world’s largest carmaker, Toyota.

Yes, the big T has confirmed a return to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2017, and the car that will be used is the Yaris. The B-segment hatchback is a natural choice and direct rival to the Ford Fiesta, Citroen DS3, Hyundai i20 and VW Polo in showrooms and soon, on special stages. The Yaris WRC will be developed and built by Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) at its base in Cologne, Germany.

The Yaris WRC features a 1.6 litre turbocharged direct-injection engine with over 300 hp. It has already completed a preliminary test programme on tarmac and gravel stages throughout Europe, and the preparation will continue over the next two years.

A few young drivers have already tested the car and Eric Camilli, 27, has been selected as the first member of a junior driver development scheme. The Frenchman will carry out the development programme alongside last year’s Tour de Corse winner Stephane Sarrazin, also a racer in Toyota’s FIA World Endurance Championship team, and Sebastian Lindholm.

Toyota is no stranger to rallying, of course. Those who follow the sport will no doubt remember the Castrol liveried Celica and Corolla rally cars driven by top drivers like Carlos Sainz, Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol. It may seem like yesterday for some, but Toyota Team Europe’s last rally was actually in the last millennium! The 1999 season was TTE’s last.

“To run two works motorsport programmes simultaneously (WEC and WRC) is of course a challenge but we believe we have the expertise and determination to succeed. There is much to do as we make the journey back to WRC but to have received the support of Toyota Motor Corporation and our President Akio Toyoda is already very encouraging,” said TMG president Yoshiaki Kinoshita.

Toyoda, a certified petrolhead and possibly the coolest car boss in town, has in fact already tested the Yaris WRC. See him go sideways in the video above. Did anyone say boring?