It’s all change for the World Rally Championship from this year onwards, with the sport adopting new hybrid regulations. That means a slew of new cars, and there’s one that interests us above all the others - the Toyota GR Yaris Rally1.
Toyota Gazoo Racing has revealed the car at an event that involved company boss Akio Toyoda taking it out for some doughnuts (it seems he just can’t resist). Although the new machine might look like the GR Yaris you can pop into a showroom and buy (or more accurately, put your name down on a waiting list), it’s technically unrelated.
While the previous set of rules stipulated the use of a production shell, the new hybrid era calls for space frame structures with bodywork that only needs to loosely resemble an existing road car. With minimum dimensions to comply with, the Yaris you see here is actually a little bigger than its distant production car cousin. Ford meanwhile has come up with a downsized, three-door take on its Puma crossover, a car sold only with five doors.
The 1.6-litre inline-four turbo engines are carried over from last year, but they’re now supplemented by 134bhp motor-generator units to give a total output of nearly 500bhp. Powering that motor is a 3.9kWh battery pack kept cool by those massive side scoops. You’ll find similar arrangements on all the new ‘Rally1’ cars, but the Yaris has by far the most dramatic pair of intakes.
While the new era vehicles are more complicated in the powertrain department, they’re simplified elsewhere. The aero packages aren’t as intricate, for instance, dropping downforce by about 15 per cent, and suspension travel has been reduced. The trick centre differentials are gone, as are the paddle-shifters on the steering wheel - drivers will once again need to pull and push a big lever to control the sequential gearbox.
As Toyota explains it:
“These changes will increase the focus on the skills of the drivers, who will also need to adapt to the demands around regenerating and deploying the hybrid energy on the stages, while working with their engineers to optimise the performance and drivability within these new parameters.”
Toyota’s WRC driver lineup is carried over from last year. It consists of reigning champion Sébastien Ogier, runner up Elfyn Evans, and Kalle Rovanperä, who last year became the youngest ever WRC winner.
The Japanese firm will be going up against the M-Sport Ford team with its aforementioned Puma, and Hyundai’s i20 N. We won’t have to wait long to see these things in action, with all three making their competition debuts at the 2022 Monte Carlo Rally from 20-23 January.