Somewhat forgotten in another dramatic year for motorsport in 2022 was a little bit of WRC history. Kalle Rovanpera became the youngest drivers’ champion in history, at just 22 years old - it was previously held by Colin McRae, who was 27 when he claimed victory way back in 1995. In fact, 2022 was a mega WRC season all-round for Toyota, as the Gazoo Racing World Rally Team was also Manufacturers’ champion for the second time.
Clearly, it's time to celebrate. There’s a rich history of rally success inspiring road cars; if not direct homologation specials, then pretty cool nonetheless. Think Impreza RB5, Evo Tommi Mak, Escort Monte Carlo and so on. Now Toyota has confirmed that it intends do the same, bringing to next week’s Tokyo show a ‘product that commemorates its WRC drivers’ title win.’
That's encouraging news on its own, but the manufacturer has also (somewhat cryptically) announced that it will also show ‘a product that utilizes the knowledge gained through WRC participation’. Which, if you'll forgive a surge of optimism, sounds a like a GR Yaris Evo, like the good old days of Delta Integrales getting better and better year after year, as well as a limited-run special edition. Though nothing is entirely clear for the moment.
Beyond those statements and the promise of demo runs for the car built with WRC knowledge, Toyota isn’t saying anything further. But, well, it’s Gazoo Racing, two cars, and the chance to celebrate notable rallying success; if the past few years has taught us anything about the new breed of fast Toyotas, they’re surely going to be awesome. Where do they go from the two-seat versions of both Yaris and Corolla?
Toyota has in fact already previewed a rally-inspired Corolla, unveiling a GR Rally Concept at the 2022 SEMA show in November (so it's conceivable that next week might not even see a pair of Yarises). Though derived from a roadgoing Circuit Edition (and keeping its manual gearbox), the concept boasted ‘an aggressive and functional bodywork to create maximum downforce’, as well as a host of carbon parts to save weight, Tein coilovers, a TIG welded cage and OZ Racing wheels. Because what’s a Toyota rally car without OZ Racing wheels? It somewhat overshadowed a rather brilliant supercharged GR86 drift car also built for SEMA, put it that way.
Toyota says its efforts at the upcoming Tokyo show all celebrate common themes; they include ‘leaving no car lovers behind’, ‘carbon neutrality for protecting beloved cars’, ‘making ever-better motorsport-bred cars’ and ‘diverse lifestyles to enjoy with beloved cars’. Shame more companies can’t be like Toyota. The press conference from President Akio Toyoda should certainly be worth listening to. As for whatever these rally-bred specials turn out to be, we can hardly wait either.
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