Toyota has confirmed that it will be returning to the World Rally Championship in 2017 after an 18-year absence.
The Japanese manufacturer won four WRC titles between 1990 and 1994 as the Celica Turbo 4WD became one of the most recognizable and famous cars in the history of rallying.
Motorsport legend Carlos Sainz won both of his world rally titles with Toyota, triumphing in 1990 and 1992. Finland’s Juha Kankkunen and France’s Didier Auriol were also victorious behind the wheel of the Celica, claiming their championships in 1993 and 1994 respectively.
However, Toyota opted to walk away from the WRC at the end of 1999, claiming “all that can be achieved has been achieved”, but signed off by winning the manufacturers’ title that year.
Now though, the history books are set to be rewritten as marque president Akio Toyoda confirmed today that Toyota would be returning to the WRC upon the next regulation change in 2017.
“Last time we competed was in 1999,” he said. “That makes me think we are not announcing a return, but perhaps a start. We must begin again from scratch and carefully prepare both team and cars.
The operation will be run out of Cologne, Germany, and a Toyota Motorsport WRC-liveried Yaris has already been testing on tarmac and gravel. 27-year-old Eric Camilli has become the first driver to join its junior programme, whilst Formula E driver Stephane Sarrazin will also aid the development of the car.
“Toyota has a long and distinguished history in motorsport, particularly in world rallying, and we’re delighted to welcome one of the automobile industry’s giants back to WRC,” WRC managing director Oliver Ciesla said.
Whether you’re a diehard WRC fan or simply have fond memories of SEGA Rally, Toyota’s return to rallying will be a historic moment in 2017.