Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) has announced its return to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2017 with the Yaris WRC, a car developed and built entirely at its technical center in Cologne, Germany.
The Toyota Yaris WRC has already completed a preliminary test program on tarmac and gravel stages across Europe, with TMG to continue testing over the next two years to prepare for a return to the series in which it won four drivers’ and three manufacturers’ world titles in the 1990s.
Toyota president Akio Toyoda himself made the announcement at a news conference where the Yaris WRC made its public debut in its new launch livery. He proved he remains probably the coolest CEO in the automotive industry by test driving the car in Tahara, Japan, a week before the announcement. As stipulated by WRC regulations, the car is powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged, direct injection engine producing more than 300 hp.
Toyota says the Yaris WRC’s chassis has been developed using advanced simulation, testing and production techniques. The automaker has also announced that it has chosen Frenchman Eric Camilli as the first member of a junior driver development scheme, designed to nurture the Toyota rally stars of the future.
Camilli will be joined by Stéphane Sarrazin, winner of last year’s Tour de Corse and a racer in Toyota’s FIA World Endurance Championship team, and Sebastian Lindholm. Toyota’s development program will include several European WRC events, with different surfaces. However, the driver lineup for the 2017 season hasn’t been announced yet.
Toyota’s 2017 WRC return will come 18 years after its final WRC rally in 1999. That season marked the end of more than 25 years’ continuous rally activity at TMG, which began life as Andersson Motorsport, named after the company’s founder, the late Ove Andersson, and which competed in the WRC as Toyota Team Europe.
During that time the team achieved 43 wins, with iconic cars such as the Celica Twin-cam Turbo and GT-Four and the Corolla WRC. The line-up of legendary drivers included Carlos Sainz, Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol.