Toyota, oh Toyota, welcome back to WRC

Of course, you’ve probably heard it by now, I barely had enough strength to endure till the start of the press webcast from Tokyo, the plan was to write a welcome post right after the webcast ended, but I got tricked and fell asleep. I slept like a baby, enjoying my happy thoughts because Toyota is back, my dear friends, and this is, put simply, too good to be true, except that it is. We could say “one down, few more to go”, because there is still room for more manufacturers, but hey, let’s not get greedy? Top two car manufacturers are here, now all we need to do is wait for 2017 and the arrival of Yaris WRC. By the way, did you check the livery on the presentation car? I had no idea, although, upon further checking, they did use same colours on GT86 CS-R3 so there’s that.

Of course, it’s going to be a long wait, but we have to respect their decision and give them time if they feel like they need it. Apparently the decision to wait till 2017 was mostly influenced by them wanting to have enough time to prepare properly, maybe some technical regulation changes also played some part or some other team coming or leaving in the meantime. Ideally, no team should leave now, when things are starting to look increasingly interesting, because all will benefit from bigger and better exposure. FIA must do what they can to keep the costs under some kind of control, partially at least, because WRC must not be allowed to start losing teams now.

 
As for Toyota, they have two full years ahead of them and with the work already done on the car we can be sure of one thing. They’re not interested in slow starts and “learning years”. When two (or three?) Yaris WRCs line up for 2017 Rallye Monte Carlo they’ll be aiming for top steps of the podium, no less. It will be interesting to see their progress and I hope they will share some of the information with us while we wait. I did not fully understand the part where they say their development programme will include several WRC rounds in Europe with different surfaces – does that mean we’ll see Yaris WRC in action before 2017? Or will they just schedule tests to run on same/similar roads for each of those rounds?

How soon will they pick their proper drivers line-up and who will be in it? No answers to that just yet, but there is some information on Toyota’s plans in the following press release. Worth noting is another promise, this one talking about Toyota’s own young driver programme, which sounds fantastic and should work nicely with similar programmes already being run by other teams.

Welcome back, Toyota, we hope you have a great time in WRC once again!

WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP RETURN FOR TOYOTA

Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) will return to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2017 with a car developed and built entirely at its technical centre in Cologne.

Over the next two years TMG will continue its test programme with the Yaris WRC in preparation for a return to the series in which it won four drivers’ and three manufacturers’ world championships in the 1990s.

The news was announced today by Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor Corporation President, at a news conference where the Yaris WRC made its public debut, in its new launch livery.

The Yaris WRC has already completed a preliminary test programme on Tarmac and gravel stages across Europe, establishing a promising baseline on which to build over the coming months.

The car features a 1.6-litre turbocharged, direct injection engine producing more than 300bhp. Its chassis has been formed using advanced simulation, testing and production techniques.

Now that an official WRC programme has been confirmed, development will be expanded and the dedicated team of specialists to engineer and run the car will be increased.

Several young drivers have already tested the car and Frenchman Eric Camilli, 27, has been selected as the first member of a junior driver development scheme, designed to nurture the Toyota rally stars of the future.

Camilli will carry out the development programme alongside Stéphane Sarrazin, winner of last year’s Tour de Corse and a racer in Toyota’s FIA World Endurance Championship team, and Sebastian Lindholm.

The programme will include several European WRC venues, with different surfaces. The experience gained will help Toyota’s preparation of the car for the 2017 season, when updated championship regulations are expected to be introduced.

The Yaris WRC follows an illustrious line of Toyota WRC cars and its 2017 debut will come 18 years after Toyota’s 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 celebrated 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.

Yoshiaki Kinshita, TMG President, said: “It is a great honour to be asked to bring the Toyota name back to the World Rally Championship alongside our continued participation in the World Endurance Championship.

“To run two works motorsport programmes simultaneously 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.

“We are looking forward to taking the next steps with an extensive development plan and a junior driver development programme. It is an exciting time and we are looking forward to this new challenge with great anticipation.”

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