1997 Toyota Celica WRC rally car

1997 Toyota Celica WRC rally car

With newcomers MINI and Volkswagen set to enter the World Rally Championship in the coming years, rival automakers including some of the sport’s previous greats are now considering doing the same.

One of these is Toyota, whose current CEO Akio Toyoda is keen to inject some excitement into the brand and is himself an avid race car driver.

Toyoda previously raced a Lexus LFA supercar in the grueling Nürburgring 24 Hours endurance race and he was one of the key backers of the new Scion FR-S sports car.

The Scion FR-S, or more accurately its Toyota GT 86 twin, will be competing in this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours as well as the All-Japan Rally Championship. The rally version of the GT 86 can be seen in the video below.  

According to a report on the main website of the WRC, Toyota has also built a new Global Race Engine and is considering making a WRC return together with Nokia as a primary sponsor.

A spokesman from Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG), an official motorsport partner of the automaker and the group previously responsible for its Formula 1 efforts, told the website: “We’re leaning towards an S2000-style of car which would be available for customers first. This is a development project, but it’s very early days--the engine only fired up for the first time a few weeks ago. At the very earliest, a car won’t be available until next year. Obviously, this being a Global Race Engine, it could go in any car, but the Yaris seems to make sense.”

The engine, a turbocharged 1.6-liter unit, already meets most of the WRC regulations. And Toyota’s Yaris subcompact has already been built as a rally car--the Yaris R1 Challenge--and sold to privateer teams.

“Medium to longer-term there is a degree of logic in the WRC,” the TMG spokesman also revealed. “We have been there [the WRC] and this is a step back into rallying.”

Toyota competed in various rally competitions between 1973 and 1999 before switching its focus to F1. During that time it achieved three WRC manufacturer championships and 43 victories.