Toyota Australia has taken the wraps off its all-new GR Yaris-based rally car – the GR Yaris AP4 (Asia-Pacific 4WD) – ahead of its competition debut in the Netier National Capital Rally in Canberra, to be held on April 9 to 11.
Two all-new Toyota GR Yaris AP4s will race in the first round of the Australian Rally Championship (ARC) driven by the factory-backed TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Australia (TGRA) rally team of Harry and Lewis Bates.
The TGRA rally team is managed by four-time Australian rally champion Neal Bates while eldest son Harry is reigning Australian rally champion and his younger brother Lewis finished runner-up in the 2019 ARC season, the last year that the ARC was run in full.
The new GR Yaris AP4 race cars were built and engineered by Neal Bates Motorsport (NBM) in collaboration with Toyota Australia.
While Toyota Australia has long supported an Australian rally team in the ARC, this is the first time that the company has been actively involved in the development of the rally cars, with the bodywork designed by the team in its Product Planning and Development (PP&D) division.
Neal Bates said it has been a great experience working directly with Toyota Australia on the design.
“This really has been a collaborative effort to help bring these cars to life and we are looking forward to their competition debut next month,” Mr Bates said.
“The design not only gives us a great looking car, but fine tuning the shape of the fenders and bumpers and other body parts using Toyota’s advanced technologies has helped give us an aerodynamic edge.
“We also worked with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Europe on the 1.6-litre three-cylinder turbo engines, which have been slightly modified from the standard GR Yaris unit to comply with the AP4 regulations, while still delivering extremely quick response and optimum driveability for rallying,” he said.
While Mr Bates and his team of five – including design director Darryl Bush, Lewis Bates, Sam Elliot, Chris Shore and Anthony Caldwell – have spent thousands of hours, stripping the original GR Yaris road cars and rebuilding them into GR Yaris AP4 rally cars, he said it has been made much easier given the original car was designed with rallying in mind.
“One of the things that is fantastic about this car is that it was designed for rally conversion and is very low weight to start with,” Mr Bates said.
“Together with the compact turbo engine and all-wheel drive system, the GR Yaris is a great base car compared to what we have worked with previously to create rally cars.
“Building these rally cars has really demonstrated what’s at the heart of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing – a performance car brand that directly links to real-world motorsport and takes those lessons and technologies and applies them to its road cars,” he said.
A world-class race car for local competition
The GR Yaris AP4 has been built to meet the AP4 category regulations and the cars are very similar to the global WRC-2 specification for manufacturer-homologated Rally2 and R5 cars that compete in the second-tier competition in the World Rally Championship (WRC).
Under rally regulations, bodyshell components such as the doors and roof of the original GR Yaris had to be maintained but all other parts can be modified.
But Mr Bates said they already had an advantage here with the GR Yaris using aluminium doors and a carbon fibre roof making it lightweight with a very low centre of gravity – perfect for a race car.
“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,” Mr Bates said.
“In a rally car you have to use the standard shell but obviously you modify that quite a bit and a lot of it is about reducing weight,” he said.
Minimum weight for the category is 1230kg and the two AP4s that NBM is building will come in significantly under that and will use ballast to meet the minimum requirement.
In respect of the bodyshell, part of that weight saving has come from the use of a fiberglass bonnet and hatch, lightweight 3D printed mirrors and bonnet vents and Perspex windows for light weight and safety.
The competition engine is based off a production GR Yaris and while the block, head and inlet manifold are standard, it uses a bespoke exhaust manifold and 1.5 bar maximum boost turbocharger and is fitted with an air restrictor to meet AP4 regulations.
While specific output figures are confidential, Mr Bates said they expect the engine to generate more than the standard GR Yaris’ 200kW and 370Nm.
The engine drives through a Sadev six-speed sequential gearbox with NBM specifying the gear ratios they wanted.
The AWD system is also sourced from Sadev and under the regulations, uses a locked centre differential that splits drive torque evenly 50/50 front to rear.
Apart from the engine, transmission, driveshaft and left-hand drive steering rack – that provides tight 1.8 turns lock to lock – all other components for the new GR Yaris AP4s have been made by NBM or sourced locally in Australia.
To cope with the rigours of sustained off-tarmac racing, NBM has added 50mm to the front suspension tower and designed and manufactured all the suspension componentry in-house. Using Murray Coote Australia (MCA) dampers, it offers 265mm travel in the front and 280mm travel in the rear.
Toyota Australia Chief Marketing Officer John Pappas said it was fantastic to see the GR Yaris transformed into a world-class rally car and was proud that Toyota Australia was able to collaborate so closely with Neal Bates Motorsport on such an exciting project.
“We have had a very successful relationship with Neal Bates Motorsport and the team ever since Neal first raced for Toyota Team Australia at Bathurst in 1989 and we’re very excited to be unveiling the GR Yaris AP4 – a car designed and built in collaboration with NBM,” Mr Pappas said.
“As a driver Neal has had a very successful career over the past 30 years and now, as TGRA team principal leading the build on these two fantastic GR Yaris AP4 rally cars, we believe he can look forward to more successes.
“We would like to wish the TGRA team all the best for the 2021 ARC season and given the pedigree of the cars, we hope to see Harry and Lewis regularly topping the podium,” he said.