A Look Back at Toyota’s Achievements in the Fascinating World of Rallying

After nearly two decades away from the sport, Toyota returned to the WRC in 2017, and since then, the team won two Drivers’ and one Manufacturers’ titles. But these are just the latest in a long line of rallying achievements for the Japanese manufacturer, which ranks fourth in all-time WRC wins.
1994 Toyota Celica GT-Four ST205 11 photos
Photo: Toyota Motor Company
1980 Toyota Celica RA401984 Toyota Celica Twincam Turbo1990 Toyota Celica GT-Four ST1651993 Toyota Celica GT-Four ST1851994 Toyota Celica GT-Four ST2051999 Toyota Corolla WRC2017 Toyota Yaris WRC2018 Toyota Yaris WRC2019 Toyota Yaris WRC2020 Toyota Yaris WRC
The origins of Toyota’s involvement in rallying date back to 1972 when Toyota Team Europe (TTE) was established in London, UK. It entered a Toyota Celica in that year’s RAC Rally driven by Ove Andersson, who managed to finish the race ninth, beating other top Japanese teams that mostly raced Datsun 240Zs.

Because the car had to be shipped back to Japan frequently for repairs and tuning, wasting a lot of time and money in the process, Anderson set up his own workshop and a TTE-backed rally team called Anderson Motorsport in 1973. That year, a Corolla driven by Walter Boyce grabbed Toyota’s first rally victory at the Press On Regardless Rally in the U.S.

In February 1975, Anderson Motorsport officially became Toyota Team Europe, and six months later, Finnish driver Hannu Mikkola won the 1000 Lakes Rally in his home country driving a Corolla.

The following decade saw the team move their headquarters to Cologne, Germany, where they began expanding their operations.

In 1984, a Celica Twincam Turbo driven by Swedish inaugural WRC Drivers’ champion Bjorn Waldegard won Kenya's Safari Rally. It was the first in a series of three consecutive victories for the team at the prestigious event.

1984 Toyota Celica Twincam Turbo
Photo: Toyota Motor Corporation
Four years later, TTE introduced the four-wheel-driven Celica GT Four, which went on to win 29 WRC rallies and two Manufacturers’ and four Drivers’ titles in its ST165, ST185, and ST205 versions.

In 1989, Spanish driver Carlos Sainz made his WRC debut for Toyota driving a Celica GT-Four ST165, taking three podiums from seven starts and helping the team finish the season second overall in the Manufacturers’ standings.

The following season Sainz dominated, winning four rallies and grabbing five podium finishes, becoming Toyota’s first Drivers’ World Champion at the wheel of the same Celica GT-Four ST165. The team finished second in the Manufacturers’ standings yet again.

1990 Toyota Celica GT\-Four ST165
Photo: Toyota Motor Corporation
In 1992 the TTE entered the upgraded Celica GT-Four ST185 into the competition, and Sainz drove it to four rally victories on the way to his second Drivers’ title. For the fourth consecutive season, Toyota finishes second in the Manufacturers’ championship.

The next year would prove even more successful as Toyota became the first Japanese manufacturer to win the WRC Manufacturers’ title, with Juha Kankkunen earning the Driver’s trophy. That year, Toyota Motor Corporation took full ownership of the team and rebranded it Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG).

In the 1994 season, the team took top honors again after dominating the competition. This time, Frenchman Didier Auriol won the Drivers’ title after driving the Celica ST185 to three rally wins and three podium finishes.

1994 Toyota Celica GT\-Four ST205
Photo: Toyota Motor Corporation
The 1995 season was a controversial one for Toyota. It managed to finish third in the Manufacturers’ standings but was later disqualified and banned from the competition for 12 months because it had fitted an illegal system that bypassed the restrictor on the turbo, increasing engine power.

For the next two years, the manufacturer maintained a presence in the competition by supporting several private teams, and in 1998, TMG returned to the competition with Celica’s replacement, the Corolla WRC. The team finished second in both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ rankings.

In 1999, the team won the Manufacturers’ title for the third time after one stage win and fourteen podium finishes. This year marked the team's withdrawal from rallying as the Japanese automaker prepared for its 2002 Formula One debut.

1999 Toyota Corolla WRC
Photo: Toyota Motor Corporation
Toyota returned to the WRC in 2017, finishing third in the Manufacturers’ standings with a newly developed Yaris WRC car driven by Finnish drivers Jari-Matti Latvala, Juho Hanninen, and Esapekka Lappi.

After further developing the car and hiring of Estonian driver Ott Tanak, Toyota won its fourth Manufacturers’ title in 2018.

Its dominance continued in 2019, with the Estonian grabbing six wins and the Drivers’ title while the team finished second overall.

In the offseason, the team managed to secure the services of rally legend Sebastien Ogier, and after a 2020 season cut short by the ongoing pandemic, the Frenchman took two victories and three podium finishes, winning his seventh Drivers’ title.
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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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