Six of Toyota’s great WRC cars
Toyota hasn’t been officially represented in the WRC for 15 years yet the memory of their achievements is so strong that the brand manages to remains synonymous with everything the world loves about rallying. Light, fast and well-engineered, these machines embodied the spirit of rallying across three decades.
Before we start, let’s get revved out by checking out a few videos:
The History of Toyota in rally.
Toyota WRC Tribute.
Now we move onto the six greatest Toyota rally machines ever built. Remember, for more information check out the TTE Europe Facebook page.
In February 1975 the legendary TTE (Toyota Team Europe) was established. Six months later, they’d arrived on the scene with a bang by scoring their first rally win. The event was the 1000 Lakes Rally in Finland, the driver was local hero Hannu Mikkola and the car was the Toyota Corolla Levin TE27. And so was born a rallying legend.
Juha Kankkunen, who would go on to win 23 WRC events and claim four drivers’ titles, came to the East African Safari – the series’ toughest challenge – for the first time as part of the factory Toyota Team Europe squad in 1985. The young Finn, who turned 26 a few days before the Nairobi-based rally got underway, was making his eighth WRC start in the Celica Twin-Cam Turbo, the ultra-reliable machine that was perfect for the gruelling stages of the three-day event. The boxy, two-wheel-drive Celica was at a distinct disadvantage against the lighter, more powerful Group B, four-wheel-drive supercars from Audi and Peugeot on the shorter championship events, but in Africa, it was the car to have.
For 1988, Toyota introduced the all-wheel-drive ST165, the first of three Celica derivatives to win at WRC level. It wasn’t until later the following season, in Australia, that the car notched up its first win – with Juha Kankkunen. More success was to follow, with Spaniard Carlos Sainz securing the drivers’ title in 1990.
Carlos Sainz 1990 onboard
Hot on the heels of Carlos Sainz’s 1990 championship victory came the 1991 season, during which Juha Kankkunen took his revenge on his former team by winning the title for Lancia. But for 1992, TTE were ready and unleashed an even more capable GT-Four Celica, now based on the updated ST185 platform. Toyota recaptured the crown with Sainz and followed it up in ’93 with Kankkunen who’s returned to the Japanese fold. A hat-trick of drivers’ titles was secured in ’94, the ST185’s final year, with Frenchman Didier Auriol.
The Castrol-sponsored ST205 Celica GT-Four, introduced in late-1994, was the fantasy machine for the Sega computer-game generation. Although it was disqualified from the World Rally Championship in 1995 following a scandal surrounding turbo air restrictors, the car became one of the most universally loved Japanese competition machines yet seen. If you were a car-kid in the 1990s, you knew all about this turbocharged, bewinged, bug-eyed Celica.
The last fully fledged, factory-blessed Toyota WRC machine was the Corolla WRC. It first appeared in Finland in 1997 and would carry Carlos Sainz to within a few hundred yards of a third world title at the end of the following season. Sainz was backed up by fellow former world champion Didier Auriol and the duo secured the manufacturers’ championship for Toyota one final time in 1999. Toyota did not return to the WRC as a works team in 2000, but the Corolla WRC lived on for several more years in the hands of privateers.