Today’s highly anticipated motorsports announcement from Japan didn’t disappoint. President Akio Toyoda went on stage and told the rallying world what we had all hoped was true, that Toyota was returning to the WRC beginning in 2017. That makes 4 full auto manufacturers and one “pseudo” manufacturer (MSport) competing at the top level of the sport.
Akio Toyoda said that his visit to Finland was a big influence on him as many fans asked him when Toyota would return to the WRC. The last time Toyota was in the WRC was 1999, and he was surprised and impressed that so many people still remembered and wanted them back. Akio said “We’re doing it to make ever better cars. We’re doing it to make people smile. For those reasons we are returning to the WRC…” Akio Toyoda then followed up by talking about his own personal experience as a novice rally driver and the excitement that it brings to drivers. He became especially emotional when he paid respects to the family of the late great Bjorn Waldegard who passed away late last year. It was apparent that Akio had learned a great deal from Waldegard in the time they had spent driving together and he felt a great personal loss at his passing. It is that emotion and passion that Akio Toyoda has that makes him such a great ambassador for manufacturers in motorsports. Toyoda san isn’t just a businessman, he’s a true car lover and I expect Toyota Corp. to be fully committed to making their team a challenger for the championship.
The 2017 WRC car is going to be a Toyota Yaris. It isn’t as exciting or dramatic as the GT86, but with the current homologation rules and minimal changes coming in 2017 the Yaris is the only logical platform to fit the specification. Toyota Motorsports (TMG) have already made an initial test car, and as you can see from the video active testing is already underway.