Toyota has unveiled the AP4 rally-specification GR Yaris competition car that will contest the 2021 Australian Rally Championship under Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia, in collaboration with Neal Bates Motorsport (NBM), which is run by four-time Australian rally champion Neal Bates.

The Japanese automaker has long offered factory backing to Australian rally teams, however this is the first time it has been actively involved in the design of a rally car through its Product Planning and Development (PP&D) division. Based on the new GR Yaris, the exterior design, styling and fabrication of the GR Yaris AP4 was done in-house by PP&D in Port Melbourne, Australia.

The AP4 specifications that the GR Yaris AP4 is built to, is the Asia Pacific equivalent of the FIA R5 regulations in Europe. The bespoke three-door design used by the GR Yaris places it at an advantage for rallying as regulations dictate that the car’s chassis must remain standard, including areas such as upper mounts for the front and rear suspension, subframes, gearboxes and driveline.

Neal Bates Motorsport has had plenty of experience building Toyota rally cars, beginning with the Celica GT-Four which provided a turbocharged, all-wheel-drive basis to start with, and the team progressed to modifying Celicas and Corollas from their basic production forms into all-wheel-drive rally cars, though now, the GR Yaris provides a much more developed foundation for them to work with, Bates said.

The GR Yaris’ bespoke three-door body is 60 mm wider and 45 mm lower than the regular five-door, and the roof’s trailing edge is 95 mm lower for a more efficient rear wing in rally guise. With its TNGA architecture blending the GA-B construction variant front end with the GA-C rear end, the GR Yaris features double wishbone rear suspension that accommodates a rear differential and half shafts.

As standard, the GR Yaris packs a turbocharged G16E-GTS 1.6 litre three-cylinder making 272 PS and 370 Nm of torque, with a Torsen mechanically locking differential at each axle. The GR-Four driveline has been developed specifically for this car, while front-to-rear torque split is handled by a multi-plate clutch pack in place of a heavier centre differential. The road car tips the scales at 1,280 kg.

Toyota’s work with NBM began in March 2020, when body design concept work commenced with virtual reality technology. Sketches for components followed, such as for the front fenders, front and rear bumper pods, rear quarter panels, bonnet vents and mirrors, and these were then further refined in the digital realm. The final, signed off designs were then made into moulds from which the fibreglass parts will be produced.

“It gives us an amazing platform to start with. We have got a carbon fibre roof, we’ve got aluminium doors, we’ve got the lightest and most powerful three-cylinder turbo mass production engine in the world, we’ve got an incredibly wide stance, and all-wheel drive – it’s literally made to be rallied,” Bates said.

“If you have a look at the current Yaris AP4s we built, we had to put a different engine in, we had to change it to all-wheel drive, we had to develop the body kit, so for us this car will be easier and simpler to build,” he added. NBM will construct and field two GR Yaris AP4 rally cars, which will be entered by lead driver Harry Bates and his younger brother, Lewis Bates.

Prospects look good for the new rally car entry. Both drivers finished first and second respectively in the 2019 season of the ARC, while the 2020 season was cancelled due to pandemic conditions. The 2021 season begins in March, with the first leg taking place in Canberra.

GALLERY: Toyota GR Yaris