After an absence of 18 years from the sport, Toyota is finally making a comeback at the World Rally Championship in 2017. The news was announced by Toyota Motor Corporation CEO Akio Toyoda at a press conference in Japan where the Cologne-based Toyota Motorsport GmbH will be developing the car for the next two seasons before its world championship debut.
“When I was in Finland last year, many fans asked me when Toyota would return to the WRC. People talked about Toyota’s history in the WRC. I was filled with surprise and gratitude that so many people still remembered,” said Toyoda.
“We decided to return to the WRC and we plan to start competition again in 2017. Last time we competed was in 1999, that makes me think we are not announcing a return, but perhaps a start,” he added.
Like mentioned earlier, Toyota Motorsport GmbH will be responsible in transforming the raod-going Yaris into a fierce gravel kicker. Of course, once completed the WRC version of the Yaris will bear very little similarities aside from certain elements of the bodyshell and basic structure. Powering the car will be a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine built according to WRC specs, so it should make about 300bhp and 310 lb-ft of torque.
There is no clue on who will be the drivers just yet, but lending a hand in the development of the car includes ex-F1, WRC and Le Mans driver Stephane Sarrazin and Sebastian Lindholm. They are joined by Eric Camilli, a 27-year old Frenchman who is also the first driver from Toyota’s junior driver development scheme.