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 months. Having 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.

A new teaser video gives us a first glimpse at the model in action, with none other than Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda at the helm. Though fine details are still hidden under the brand’s Gazoo Racing camouflage, the video offers us a look at the front and side of the hatch, revealing the use of a wheel, tyre and suspension setup very similar to that of a WRC racer – raised suspension, generously-sized mud flaps, rally-spec wheels and off-road tyres can all be seen.

The short film also gives us a preview of the model’s rowdy exhaust sound, and although the details are still to be announced, it does confirm the use of a 4-pot power plant – the sound of the model’s spirited departure also hints at the use of a manual gearbox, in this development car, at least. New angles in the film give us a better look at the widened rear arches, something that’s also carried through to the front via a larger side sill, where larger, more aggressive intakes are incorporated into the front bumper.

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.

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 a launch event is set for early next year.

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.