Tuesday | 24 Jan 2023

Latvala reveals ERC ambition for Toyota’s GR Yaris Rally2

Toyota’s all-new GR Yaris Rally2 is set for FIA European Rally Championship action from 2024 in a move that will revive memories of the manufacturer’s previous ERC title-challenging forays.

Enrico Bertone, Armin Kremer, Henrik Lundgaard and Armin Schwarz all secured the ERC’s top award driving examples of the Japanese machines and the GR Yaris Rally2 is being developed to give the next generation of drivers the chance fight for the ERC title powered by Toyota.

Speaking at the WRC Kick Off event in Monaco last week, Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Jari-Matti Latvala said the GR Yaris Rally2 would meet a growing demand once it’s homologated for international competition use from next season.

“I’m very confident this car will be seen in both championships, the ERC and the WRC and I’d be really happy to see this,” said Latvala, who made three ERC starts as a driver. “Toyota has a great heritage [in rallying with the Celica and Corolla WRC] and there are a lot, a lot of people who want to drive a Toyota and Rally2 is a great class for the customers.”

Latvala continued: “We have a road car GR Yaris which is a great base car and there have been a lot of requests [from customers]. Toyota had a lot of customers [in rallying] back in the 1990s and these customers and, of course, the newcomers are waiting to get something they can drive. Rally1s are really the cars for the fully professionals, but Rally2 is a class where you can have professionals, amateurs, all kinds of ages from the very young to a very high age. There has been a big need [for a Toyota Rally2 car] and finally we can give a product for those people who want to drive and enjoy our cars.”

While 2023 will be focused on testing and development, the GR Yaris Rally2 will make its competition debut in this year’s Japanese championship – which permits cars homologated on a national basis – on the all-Tarmac Shinshiro Rally from March 3-5.

“We have one year of testing time but we need time [because] we know how strong Škoda has been and about 50 per cent of the [Rally2] cars are Škodas and now they have a brand new car. We need to keep working because you can’t be there with a product that’s not ready.

“The 2023 season is targeted for testing but we are going to run this car in the Japanese Rally Championship and Takamoto Katsuta’s father Norihiko Katsuta is going to drive it and there has been a little bit of speaking about [me] driving on one event and that could be on Rally Hokkaido [in September] and that’s under discussion. I am not 100 per cent committed yet but we are targeting that and it would be fantastic to be there with the Rally2 car.”

Toyota-powered ERC champions:
1995: Enrico Bertone (Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD)
1996: Armin Schwarz (Toyota Celica GT-Four)
2000: Henrik Lundgaard (Toyota Corolla WRC)
2001: Armin Kremer (Toyota Corolla WRC)