You’d have been forgiven for not noticing the achievement of Toyota Gazoo Racing’s World Rally Team over the weekend. With Elfyn Evans finishing third at Rally Chile, teammates Kalle Rovanpera and Takamoto Katsuta following behind and a one-two on the Power Stage, enough points were accrued for TGR-WRT’s fourth WRC Manufacturers’ title. Its third in a row, no less. A Yaris pilot is guaranteed to win the Drivers’ championship again, too, with Rovanpera out front and Evans 31 points behind with two events remaining - that’ll be the fifth one in a row for Gazoo Racing.
Yet such is the current state of awareness around WRC that it’s only the most dedicated that will appreciate what Toyota has achieved. It’s a matter to explore fully another time, though clearly something is amiss when the cars and driving are more spectacular than ever - with a link back to the showroom, too, in the shape of the GR Yaris - and yet popularity seems at its lowest ebb. Perhaps the WRC needs its own F1-style overhaul as Liberty Media provided, as such incredible motorsport deserves a wider audience.
This latest triumph is the perfect reminder of Toyota’s previous rally success. Prior to the Gazoo Racing overhaul, there were another three Manufacturers’ titles to Toyota’s name. The first of those was 30 years ago, in 1993, with a Celica GT-Four just like this one.
Predictably enough given the legendary status of the stage star and fairly muted look of the road car, this one is a rally replica. There’s more to it than that, however, as this WRC homage is based on something called the GT-Four Rally, a special edition only for the JDM. It was a narrow body car that took 40kg from the standard model thanks to the deletion of electric windows and mirrors plus the removal of the sunroof, foglights and even its rear wiper. Interesting enough on its own, and surely the perfect place to begin a build like this from.
Plenty has changed. The bonnet and incredible lamp pod are exact replicas of those used by Toyota Team Europe in period, the OZ Roulette is the perfect GT-Four wheel (here with almost new Toyos), and the interior benefits from Recaro seats, a Momo wheel and TRD gear knob. But what’s most exciting is what lies under the fibreglass bonnet, as the 2.0-litre turbo engine was rebuilt last winter. It now boasts a new hybrid turbo, Delphi 800cc injectors, OE pistons, uprated cams, a ported and polished head and a rally-spec exhaust… a proper job, basically, and good for 300hp. Which should be plenty entertaining enough through a close-ratio gearbox.
This GT-Four looks a really interesting build, with a lot of love and labour invested. Though a Japanese import car rather than a UK model, it’s been here for 25 years, so it’s not the leap into the unknown that might be expected. As well as being owned by the MD of a ‘well-known competition preparation specialists’ for the past five years - surely as good a person as any to keep a car like this - the Celica is said to boast a ‘massive history file’ to substantiate its past.
And it’s £20k. As so many of the old rally replicas or homologation specials become so prohibitively valuable so as to be effectively unusable, the appeal of something that promises a properly raw rally experience shoots up. It’s been well used, it’s been modified, so you need not be precious. Just get in, get comfy - and don’t lift…
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