A little over three years ago, the then-president of the FIA, Max Mosley, took one of his decidedly rare appearances at a WRC event to announce his plans for a single 1.6-litre ‘world engine’ to power everything from Formula One to foundation-level rallycross under the FIA’s governance. If manufacturers wanted to support motor sport, they could brand this lump and any leaps in performance would be attained through their various hybrid/KERS/greentech programmes.
As ever, in Max’s reign, the opening gambit was aimed at stretching the point so that in the bartering process among the sport’s stakeholders – commercial and sporting – would end up at an acceptable compromise… namely swapping to small capacity turbo motors.
So far we have seen Ford, Citroën and Volkswagen produce contemporary WRC powerplants. With the original unit being shared by BMW and Peugeot-Citroën models, the MINI and the DS3 have effectively the same powerplant, while a restricted version is due to go into sister company Peugeot’s new 208 R5 and Citroën DS3 RRC. VW is meanwhile reportedly lending its motor to the proposed Škoda Fabia R5. Hyundai will now be busily preparing its own unit when it opens for business, while in Cologne a sixth 1600cc turbo is in development at Toyota Motorsports GmbH (TMG).
A foundation-level Yaris R1A appeared at this year’s Rallye Deutschland as the ‘double zero’ course car as a precursor to a one-make series as part of the new WRC3 in 2013. R1A regulations that permit only limited performance modifications to production vehicles with engines up to 1.4-litres, but it has – and continues to tantalise with the possibility of a full return.
Speaking before the Yaris appeared, back in August, TMG President Yoshiaki Kinoshita, said:
“It is a great thrill for TMG to return to rallying, a discipline in which we enjoyed a great deal of success in the past… I hope this is the start of a new rally dynasty at TMG.”
Toyota has had an enormous purpose-built motor sport facility sitting idly by since it quit the Formula One circus in 2009. While often mooted as a venue for hire to aspiring F1 teams, the facility has instead been pointed squarely back towards the Japanese giant’s old stomping ground of the WRC, with confirmation that a 1.6-litre engine was on the bench.
“Of course the final target is the WRC programme but to get back in WRC program we need several steps,” Mr. Kinoshita said. “Because we stopped rally programme in 1999 after that most of the people are gone, there is no knowhow inside the company… we hope we are ready in 2014, but of course we need official approval from TMC (Toyota Motor Corporation)”.
Following Mr. Kinoshita’s early enthusiasm, an unnamed Toyota source spoke further to wrc.com, saying: “We’re leaning towards an S2000-style of car which would be available for customers first. This is a development project, but it’s very early days – the engine only fired up for the first time a few weeks ago – at the very earliest, a car won’t be available until next year.
“Obviously, this being a Global Race Engine, it could go in any car, but the Yaris seems to make sense.”
Max Mosley is doubtless thrilled…