Even casual fans of rallying have heard of Group B monsters like the Audi Quattro S1, Lancia Delta S4 and Ford RS200. The flame-spitting contingent having long since written their names into racing folklore. Mention machines like Audi Sport Quattro RS 002, Lancia ECV or Toyota 222D, however, and you'll likely be met with a blanker expression.
These were Group S cars, a class of rally racers set to debut in 1987 as non-point-scoring also-rans, before a competitive introduction in 1988. Only 10 road-going examples would be required for homologation, compared to 200 in Group B, an attempt to encourage innovation and outside-the-box design. Other than that the regulations initially remained fairly closely aligned to what had gone before.
Following the tragic events of the 1986 Group B season, however, both it and the replacement Group S were scrapped - despite attempts to save it with new rules such as a 300hp limit on power - with the far more sanitised Group A regulations coming to the fore. Several manufacturers were already well advanced in their preparations, though, retaining their prototype machines in various states of completion. Now, with its successful Yaris WRC indefinitely out of action until racing resumes, Toyota has given us our best look yet at its historic would-be contender.
Developed by Cologne-based Toyota Motorsport, the 222D had little in common with the commercially available MR2 on which it was based. Tipping the scales at just 750kg, it used a lightweight tubular frame, while the separate rear luggage and engine compartments were replaced with a single clamshell design to improve access. Double wishbone front suspension and five-link independent rear were found underneath, too, bringing the 222D in line with its contemporaries.
In place of the 1.6-litre engine and rear-wheel drive set-up of the MR2, the 222D adopted the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder motor of Toyota's planned ST165 Celica GT-Four, along with a five-speed manual transmission. In its highest state of derestricted tune, this was capable of 600hp and 472lb ft of torque, outputs which could be sent to either all-four wheels or the rears only by a switch in the cabin. Similarly adjustable was the turbo boost pressure, which could be varied between 1.3 and 1.5 bar using a handwheel in the cockpit.
Following completion of the first prototype in February of 1985, testing in Japan and Europe led to a series of improvements, with the engine placement, suspension and tyre size all tweaked. It would all be in vain, however, with the demise of Group S seeing the two completed prototypes retired - a white example that has previously been exhibited in the Toyota Mega Web Showroom in Tokyo, and Cologne's 'Black Beast' which has made appearances at events such as Goodwood's Festival of Speed.
In similar style to many of its peers, and despite never having competed, the 222D has developed an almost mythical status amongst fans. A reminder of what might have been, had the Group S regulations made it off the drawing board.