Toyota has announced it will return to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2017 with a new dirt-spec Toyota Yaris set to take the stage.
Under the guidance of Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda - the man behind the push to make cars that are more exciting, and one of the fathers of the Toyota 86 sports coupe - the Japanese company will compete in the rally championship for the first time since 1999.
The new car will be developed and built by the Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) at the company's technical centre in Cologne, Germany, and it says the test program for the Yaris WRC car will be further developed before its introduction to the series in 2017.
Preliminary testing has already started on the Yaris WRC, including tarmac and gravel tracks across Europe, and the company says the results have shown "a promising baseline on which to build over the coming months".
Powering the Yaris WRC is a 1.6-litre turbocharged, direct-injection four-cylinder engine producing in excess of 300 horsepower (224kW) and 420Nm, and the company claims that "advanced simulation, testing and production techniques have shaped the Yaris chassis".
The company has enlisted 27-year-old French driver Eric Camilli as its first member of a junior driver development scheme, while Tour de Corse winner Stéphane Sarrazin and Sebastian Lindholm are also on deck as part of the development team.
When Toyota finished up in 1999, it ended a star-studded 25-year chapter of rallying, with drivers such as Carlos Sainz, Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol all having piloted Toyota WRC cars over that time.
Toyota WRC team president Yoshiaki Kinoshita said getting back into WRC was a great honour.
"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," Kinoshita said.
"We are looking forward to taking the next steps with an extensive development plan and a junior driver development program. It is an exciting time and we are looking forward to this new challenge with great anticipation."
Toyota Yaris WRC specifications:
|Type||Steel body shell|
|Brakes||300mm discs on gravel, 355mm on tarmac|
|Wheels||Wheels 7 x 15" gravel, 8 x 18" tarmac|
|Engine capacity||1.6 litres|
|Direct injection||Up to 200bar|
|Turbo pressure||2.5 bar absolute (maximum)|
|Power||Around 300hp (at 6,000rpm)|