Gazoo Racing to follow up its 2019 WRC championship with an all-new car based on the GR-4 hot hatch
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a true road-going rally car homologation, but this is something Toyota plans to change in the coming weeks. Having just wrapped up the 2019 World Rally Championship with its current Yaris WRC car, Toyota’s motorsport arm, Gazoo Racing, is wasting no time getting a 2020 contender in order, one that will be based on a modified version of the recently revealed 2020 Yaris.
This homologation model will be called the Yaris GR-4, and despite sharing a name, will feature dramatic proportional changes over the bubbly standard Yaris on which it’s based. Instantly visible is the lower roofline and heavily flared wheelarches, but the changes are due to go deeper, with new suspension pick-up points, a wider track and new rear axle in the works too.
Although the standard Yaris is front-wheel drive in the UK, certain models in the Japanese domestic market are available with an all-wheel-drive system, something that requires a more sophisticated multi-link rear axle to facilitate it. This might be something this high-performance Yaris GR-4 version will feature, regardless of whether it utilises all-wheel drive or not. The lower roofline will also likely benefit the WRC car’s aero package, reducing the frontal section and creating a more suitable mounting point for the inevitable stacked rear wing.
Why go to all the effort and expense of re-engineering things such as the roofline and axles for a homologation special? Gazoo Racing’s 2020 Yaris WRC car differs so much from the standard Yaris that this homologation model will need to be produced. In contrast to old Group N WRC rules, which required a limited number of closely related road-going examples to be produced in order to comply (think early Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution or Subaru WRX), today’s rules allow a wider chasm between the road and rally versions. Venture outside these limitations, as Toyota Gazoo Racing looks to have done, and a far bigger production run is required to homologate the race car.
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As such, the Yaris GR-4 will not be limited to just a few hundred units, instead Toyota will need to produce a full 25,000 next year in order to comply with WRC regulations. Further details, including those about the powertrain, remain frustratingly absent, but we shouldn’t have to wait long to find out more as Toyota will reveal the Yaris GR-4 in prototype from later this month at the Australian round of the WRC.
As the French look to be out of the supermini hot hatch game with an uncertain future surrounding hot versions of the Renault Clio and Peugeot 208, it might well be Toyota that brings new life into one of our favourite performance car segments.