TOYOTA GAZOO Racing
Pushing the limits for Better
In 2015 Toyota united its motorsports activities into TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, placing motorsports at the core of its commitment to make ‘ever-better cars’.
Kiichiro Toyoda, Toyota’s founder, said in 1952: “Motorsport is more than just entertainment. It is vital to the development of the car industry. Just as athletes test their capabilities by competing with all their strength in the Olympics, automakers use racing as an opportunity to push a vehicle’s performance to the limits and compete for supremacy, enabling them to discover new ways of advancing automotive technology.”
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing activities - of which motorsports is a crucial element - focus on 3 main pillars: improving cars for the road, developing the company’s human resources and sharing the excitement of driving with customers and fans.
By participating in highly demanding series such as the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), Toyota pushes its cars to the limit, in the pursuit of making ever-better cars.
Also, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing South Africa, who shares the same vision with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing, is competing in Dakar.
A great return to the World Rally Championship (WRC)
From smooth asphalt to rough, unpaved roads, WRC is a merciless and riveting high-speed chase through nearly every type of public road in the world. Drivers must instantly judge the road conditions in this high-impact, full-throttle challenge.
But building world rally cars is about far more than just theory. It’s about crafting a vehicle that can be driven to the limit on each and every type of road, based on thorough first-hand experience and knowledge. With this in mind, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is back in the WRC in 2017, after a 17 year break.
Led by Tommi Mäkinen – four-time FIA World Rally Champion – and with a strong driver line-up consisting of Jari-Matti Latvala (car No.10), one of the fastest rally drivers in the world, and the vastly experienced Juho Hänninen (car No.11), the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team (WRT) has all the ingredients in place for this exciting challenge.
For more than a year the days of the team were filled with thousands of hours in the workshop, testing programmes around Europe and a great deal of teamwork. Everything was focused on a single goal: to be ready for the start of the Rallye Monte-Carlo.
While Toyota has enjoyed considerable success in the World Rally Championship in the past, the Yaris WRC project represents a new chapter in the company’s long and illustrious racing history. With its continued commitment to making ever-better cars through motorsport, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT is keeping its expectations for 2017 firmly in check as it prioritises car development and learning over outright results.
Nevertheless, the team’s WRC return began on a positive note, surpassing all expectations on its debut. Jari-Matti Latvala and his co-driver Miika Anttilla finished second in the Rallye Monte Carlo with Juho Hänninen and Kaj Lindström completing the rally in 16th place, scoring valuable points in the Power Stage on the last day.
In Rally Sweden, the result was even better as Latvala claimed the first rally win for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT and Hänninen scored more manufacturer points. The team is now second in the manufacturers’ championship, while Latvala heads the drivers’ standings.
The next stop on the World Rally Championship, round three, is Rally Mexico on 9-12 March. This will be the first gravel round of the year and the first run in high temperatures, with the stages at high altitude as well, which deprives the engine of oxygen. As a result it represents another brand new challenge for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing.
Inspired to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans
Having faced a tough 2016 World Endurance Championship (WEC) season - with near misses in Spa and Le Mans - TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s final tally from the season’s nine races stood at seven podium finishes and 229 points, with the TS050 HYBRID earning third place in the manufacturers’ World Championship.
This year, the team will enter the new season stronger than before, and ready to fight at the front.
To demonstrate its commitment to endurance racing and to enhance its chances of victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the team will enter three TS050 HYBRIDs at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans itself.
Argentina’s José María López joins WEC race winners Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi in the #7 TS050 HYBRID. José Maria, 33, was a GP2 race winner before moving to the World Touring Car Championships where he won the last three titles.
The 2014 FIA World Endurance Drivers Champions Sébastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson will again team up with Kazuki Nakajima, the only Japanese driver to earn pole position at Le Mans, to compete together for a full season in car #8.
Stéphane Sarrazin, twice a runner-up with Toyota at Le Mans, will lead the team’s third car entry. His two team-mates in the #9 will be announced during the course of March while the updated TS050 HYBRID will be presented at TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s WEC press conference on 31 March at Monza.
Dakar showcases the durability and toughness of Toyota vehicles
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing South Africa started the 2017 edition of the iconic rally raid on a charge. Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah and French navigator Mathieu Baumel won the short opening stage of the race convincingly, while Giniel De Villiers and Dirk Von Zitzewitz recorded the fifth-fastest time on the first stage. This set up both crews perfectly for the first full Dakar stage.
Stage 2 produced the expected fireworks, with Al-Attiyah and Baumel leading for extended periods, before settling for the second-fastest time on the day. De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz maintained their position, finding their stride and giving the Toyota Hilux a great outing.
But then came Stage 3, and massive disappointment for the team. Al-Attiyah and Baumel started the day assertively, and set the pace through most of a long and tricky stage. They looked set to record a second stage win for Toyota at Dakar 2017 until the Qatari driver ran wide near the end of the stage, and a jagged roadside pothole ripped the right rear wheel from the car, severely damaging the suspension in the process.
With Al-Attiyah and Baumel out of the race, all attention shifted to De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz. But Stage 3 also brought disappointment for them as a fuel pressure problem halted their charge. This tumbled them down the order, and it was an uphill battle from there. In the end, they finished the Dakar 2017 in fifth place overall.
Although TOYOTA GAZOO Racing South Africa may not have achieved what they set out to this year, they can certainly be proud of their performance in undoubtedly the world’s toughest rally raid.
In addition to three Hilux finishing in the top ten (P4: Roma/Haro Bravo, P5: De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz, P9: Rautenbach/Howie), 25 other Toyota vehicles completed the race. Reinforcing the company’s reputation for tough, durable engineering, they made up almost half of the entire field of finishing cars - considerably more than any other manufacturer.