Toyota first hinted it could be interested in a return to the WRC almost two years ago and this week it is testing a Yaris-based WRC ahead of an expected come back to top line rallying in 2017.
Motorsport Italia is currently running the test program in Tuscany on behalf of the European-based Toyota Motorsport GmbH. Toyota factory driver Stephane Sarrazin has joined Finnish driver Sebastian Lindholm for the test sessions.
Toyota president Akio Toyoda was an interested onlooker at Rallye Monte Carlo in January and when pressed on the issue of a possible return to the WRC by journalists he happily obliged.
“Toyota would like to come back to the WRC,” Toyoda said. “But it is difficult to give a concrete timing to this. I said the same thing two years ago, but the distance is gradually getting closer.
“I would like to hear messages that fans want Toyota to challenge the WRC again. Then, the distance might be even closer.
“Personally I would like to see a Japanese manufacturer compete in the WRC again.”
Next year has been ruled out, meaning the earliest possible return would be 2016. However with new regulations to be implemented for the 2017 season Toyota may see fit to wait until then.
Speaking to Autosport in January a TMG source said: “We are building the car [Yaris WRC] to current regulations, but this is to give us experience of running a car like this.
“Certainly we are not looking at running the car in 2015, that’s far too soon.
“It’s more likely that we would wait for the next generation of WRC regulations, which I believe come in 2017.”
UPDATE: A video of the Yaris WRC prototype in action has been added below.