Toyota to return to the WRC in 2017

Published: 30 January 2015

► Toyota back in World Rally Championship
► Yaris based WRC car
► Return to rallying planned for 2017 

Who doesn’t have fond memories of Castrol-liveried Celicas and Corolla WRC’s powersliding their way to glory in far-flung rallies around the globe?

Toyota president Akio Toyoda has today announced the company will return to the World Rally Championship frontline in 2017 with a new car based on the Yaris. No word on Castrol stickers just yet.

The addition of another works team is a welcome shot in the arm for the WRC, which is currently a Citroen versus VW affair with the fledgling Hyundai team playing a supporting role.

2017 Toyota Yaris WRC: the details

Transformation of the Yaris from humble shopping trolley to special stage hero is being handled by Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) in Cologne. Of course, as with all WRC cars there’ll be very little actual Yaris content in the final car barring certain elements of the bodyshell and basic architecture.

Power comes from a 1.6-litre turbo built to WRC regs, packing in excess of 300bhp and 310lb ft and testing on tarmac and gravel is already underway in Europe – check out the video at the foot of the page to see the prototype Yaris WRC in action, with none other than Akio Toyoda himself taking a turn behind the wheel.

Who’s going to drive it?

It’s too early for Toyota to pick a driver line-up for 2017 but the test pilots developing the car include ex-F1, WRC and Le Mans star Stéphane Sarrazin and experienced hand Sebastian Lindholm. They’re joined by 27-year old Frenchman Eric Camilli, the first member of Toyota’s new junior driver development scheme.

Toyota last won the WRC constructors’ title in 1999 and came within metres of winning the driver’s championship in 1998 when Carlos Sainz’s Corolla WRC ground to halt almost in sight of the finish line on the final stage of the year.

The Japanese firm’s keeping plenty busy with motorsport activities at the moment, with an ongoing World Endurance and Le Mans programme and a factory Lexus team in Japan’s Super GT series among various other projects.

Let’s hope a little of that motorsport magic rubs off on some of Toyota’s future road cars. Auris GT-Four anyone?

Yaris WRC from ToyotaGB on Vimeo.

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, occasional racer

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