In any form of motorsport, manufacturers come and go, but the sport continues to be shaped by the teams and the major players that lead them. So when Subaru packed up and left the World Rally Championship, you knew it was only a matter of time before David Richards and his company Prodrive would be back on stage. Now it looks like that opportunity could come from Toyota.
Richards has made no secret of his desire to bring Prodrive back to the WRC, but rather than re-enter as a privateer, he's indicated that the new outfit will be fielded under the auspices of a major manufacturer. Given the ties which Richards has fostered with Toyota – particularly over the Cygnet/iQ deal which be brokered with the Japanese auto giant in his capacity as chairman of Aston Martin – and the reported presence of Toyota scouts at several rallies recently, the signs are pointing towards Toyota's involvement.
It's been over a decade since the Japanese automaker has competed in the WRC, but recently trimmed a significant drain on its motorsport budget by withdrawing from Formula One. A top-tier rally team is tipped to cost around 8% of what Toyota had been pouring into its over-funded F1 program. And speaking of F1, Richards has for the time being abandoned aspirations to return to grand prix racing, having run both the Benetton and BAR-Honda teams in the past. But he leaves F1 with an intriguing suggestion to replace the current qualifying system with a computerized grid that would rotate the starting order with each race, thereby mixing up the outcome of each race. Interesting, but the Toyota reports seem more plausible.