Toyota Motorsport has confirmed that it will return to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2017 with a works team, using the new Toyota Yaris WRC car to spearhead its campaign.
The news of Toyota’s WRC return was announced by Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda at a news conference in Tokyo, where the Yaris WRC made its public debut, complete with new launch livery. Its been over 25 years since Toyota last took part in the WRC with 1999 being the last season of the Japanese Manufacturers participation, using the successful Toyota Corolla WRC to secure what was their third WRC Manufacturers title.
The Yaris WRC car has already been undergoing testing on Tarmac and Gravel stages throughout Europe to help the Manufacturer gain a better understanding of the car for future development, leading to its now confirmed debut in 2017.
With an official programme now announced, Toyota also confirmed that it will be expanding its technical team dedicated to making sure the car is competitive and ready for its debut. They also confirmed a mixed lineup of youth and experienced driving talent to help develop the car over the next two years, during which time the Yaris WRC will be tested at different established WRC venues to gain further knowledge and understanding of the car.
The driving team includes current FIA WEC Toyota driver and 2014 Tour de Course winner Stephane Sarrazin, who has seen some success in a career that covers Formula One, Sportscars and Rallying. Sarrazin will be joined by another Frenchman Eric Camilli, who has already tested the car and was the first driver to be chosen as part of a junior driver development scheme designed with the goal of developing Toyota rally stars of the future. Sebastian Lindholm completes the development driver lineup.
The Yaris WRC will have a 1.6-litre turbo-charged, direct injection engine, which produces over 300hp whilst extensive study, simulation and testing has gone into the bodyshape of the car itself and will continue to evolve over the next two years. It is expected that new regulations will come into effect for the WRC in 2017 and Toyota will use this time to prepare that expected change.
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, TMG President explained, “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.”