Toyota's celebrated GR Yaris became a homologation special without a series in 2020, so the firm's Australian division seized an opportunity to work with a local team to give the hatchback its 15 minutes of fame on gravel. It transformed the rally-inspired city car into a full-blown rally car named GR Yaris Asia-Pacific 4WD (AP4).
Neal Bates Motorsport (NBM) and Toyota Australia worked together on the project, and the carmaker proudly noted its involvement wasn't limited to providing discounted spare parts. Its product planning and development division designed the AP4's body (including the wider fenders on both axles) and helped shape its aerodynamic profile.
Meanwhile, Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe assisted NBM in making the regular GR's turbocharged, 1.6-liter three-cylinder engine comply with AP4 regulations. The block, the cylinder head, and the intake manifold are off-the-shelf components, but its exhaust manifold and its turbocharger are AP4 specific. NBM expects its car's triple will be more powerful than the street-legal model's, which produces 268 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, but it noted the final figures are confidential. The engine spins the four wheels via a six-speed sequential gearbox.
Making a rally car out of the GR Yaris was relatively straightforward, because it was developed with racing in mind from the get-go. Interestingly, the hatchback is too light to compete. Cars need to tip the scale at 2,177 pounds or more to comply with AP4 regulations, and the Yaris weighs less. NBM will need to use ballast to make it heavier.
"People often think that a rally car is just a modified road car, but it really is a supercar for the gravel. The build process is identical to that of a supercar," explained team manager Neal Bates in a statement.
Toyota's GR Yaris AP4 will compete in the Rally 2 category of the World Rally Championship (WRC). It's scheduled to make its competition debut at the Netier National Capital Rally in Canberra, Australia, on April 9, 2021. It won't race in the United States, and the petition asking Toyota to sell the GR Yaris here hasn't produced results.