Toyota coy on return of Australian rally programme
There is ‘discussion’ regarding the return of a Toyota factory rally programme in Australia, according to marketing executive director Tony Cramb.
While Cramb has ruled out a Toyota entry into Supercars – although left the door open for sister brand Lexus – the return of an Australian Rally Championship programme could be on the cards.
Even without a factory squad the brand is enjoying success in the ARC, with Harry Bates recently winning the season-opening round in Ballarat in an S2000-spec Corolla backed by Toyota Genuine Parts.
And with Toyota having recommitted to rallying at a global level with its new World Rally Championship programme, Cramb has not ruled out an ARC programme to run alongside the one-make Toyota 86 Racing Series in Australia.
“That is an area, clearly, where there is international movement,” said Cramb, the Toyota Motor Corporation Australia’s Executive Director of Sales and Marketing.
“As part of an event we did driving cars around five nations, Akio [Toyoda] came and drove personally at Coffs Harbour. So I think rallying is something that, internationally, we’ve headed off in that direction.
“And we do have a heritage here [in Australia] of rally. So that one might be more interesting. It’s only discussion.”
Toyota enjoyed a long stretch of supporting a rally programme in Australia throughout the 1990s and 2000s, with Neal Bates Motorsport running factory-backed Group A Celica GT-Fours and WRC-spec Corollas from 1990 to 2001. A short break to develop the unique Group N-spec Corolla followed, before the programmed continued for another six years with the official factory squad running both Group N and S2000-spec Corollas.
The full-blown factory involvement ended shortly after the 2009 ARC season kicked off with a 1-2 finish for Toyota in Tasmania.
The 19 years of factory ARC involvement yielded four titles for Neal Bates and Coral Taylor (1993-1995 and 2008), and two for Simon and Sue Evans (2006 and 2007).
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