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Toyota GR Yaris 2021: purpose-built Australian rally car unveiled


A purpose-built rally weapon based on the GR Yaris has been unveiled ahead of its debut in the Australian Rally Championship next month.

Toyota has revealed its GR Yaris-based AP4 rally car that has been purpose-built for the factory-backed Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia (TGRA) rally team to take on the Australian Rally Championship in 2021.

Development of the GR Yaris-based rally cars was announced four months ago with the two cars engineered and constructed by Neal Bates Motorsport which is owned by the four-time Australian rally champion of the same name.  

Toyota GR Yaris Rally Car 2021 rear
Toyota’s factory backed team will use a GR Yaris built into an AP4 rally car

Toyota has been apart of the local series for many years but it was the first time the Japanese manufacturer had assisted with the development of the new car, despite the limitations of the pandemic.

The two cars will be driven by Mr Bates’ sons; reigning champion Harry Bates and previous runner up Lewis Bates, which both look to be fiercely competitive when they hit the dirt.

What started life as a fairly rowdy road-going rally car has been transformed into a proper race car that is built to the standards of the AP4 category, which acts as the Australian alternative for the R5 rally cars in the WRC2 category in Europe but teams can operate at a low cost with similar performance.

Toyota GR Yaris Rally Car 2021 build
The GR Yaris AP4 was designed and built by Neal Bates Motorsport

While the doors and roof of the production car must be retained under the regulations, that is no bad thing according to Mr Bates, with the stock panels made out of light aluminium and carbon fibre materials. 

Mr Bates, who also manages the TGRA rally team, said with the advantage of a low starting weight and a platform that already features all-wheel-drive he was able to keep the centre of gravity low and actually had to use a ballast to reach the minimum requirement of 1230kg. 

“People often think that a rally car is just a modified road car, but it really is a supercar for the gravel, the build process is identical to that of a supercar,” Mr Bates said.

Toyota GR Yaris Rally Car 2021 front
To turn it into a fully-fledged rally car the shock toweres were raised by 50mm

The 1.6-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine makes 200kW of power and 370Nm of torque out the factory but the race specification is said to be higher than that after the fitment of a specially designed exhaust system and a turbocharger making up to 1.5 bar of boost.

For snappier gear changes a six-speed sequential gearbox has also been fitted in place of the standard six-speed manual and a new all-wheel-drive system has been fitted to comply with regulations.

To soak up the huge bumps at speeds approaching 200km/h on dirt the suspension tower has been raised 50mm to fit the enormous Murray Coote Australia dampers with 265mm of travel in the front and 280mm in the rear.

Toyota GR Yaris Rally Car 2021 build above
The cars will compete in the Australian Rally Championship with the first race to take place in April

Mr Bates said the GR Yaris offered a platform far easier to work on and transform into a competitive racing car than other models he and his team had built previously. 

It perhaps comes as no surprise given that the GR Yaris was famously designed with the assistance of WRC Champion Tommi Mäkinen who insisted on features such as an aerodynamic lower rear roof to make it more competitive in WRC, however, due to the pandemic the AWD weapon was never able to be tested for the series and therefore could not compete. 

Regardless, we’ll find out just how competitive the new Yaris rally car is when the Australian Rally Champion opens with the Netier National Capital Rally in Canberra on April 9.