A TOYOTA GT86 with four-wheel drive, built for the Japanese car giant by four-time World Rally Champion Tommi Makinen, made a brief public appearance on the Rally Finland course on Friday.
UK magazine Autosport reported the car completed the first half of the Kakaristo stage and ran past a hospitality area with Toyota guests before pulling off.
Following news earlier this week that a GT86 CS-R3 two-wheel drive prototype built by Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) will run as the Zero car at Rallye Germany later this month, the 4WD car’s appearance further fuels expectations of a Toyota return to the WRC.
Toyota retired from the WRC in 1999 after winning three Manufacturers Championships and four Drivers titles, but has been talking openly in recent months about a possible return. It was reported to be building a WRC test mule based on the Yaris light hatchback.
CEO and President Akio Toyoda, a motorsport enthusiast and driving force behind the development of the GT86 road car, commissioned Makinen to build the AWD car that appeared on Friday.
Autosport’s David Evans, who revealed the existence of the car only on Thursday, reported Toyoda also drove the rally car himself for the first time at a private test on Thursday.
Toyoda explained it had been built by Makinen after he spent time receiving driver coaching from the Finnish legend earlier this year.
Dispensation was given by rally organisers and the FIA for the car to drive at competitive speeds ahead of the course cars.
The GT86 was running in near-standard form with a Subaru gearbox and front driveshafts fitted, Autosport said. It is being used for filming and internal promotional purposes in Japan.
On the subject of Toyota’s return to the WRC, Toyoda told WRC Live: “I came here to learn about WRC and what I found out is that Toyota’s DNA of rallying is really, really a lot to me.
“As a top guy of the company, I want to continue that kind of legend.
“As you know, Toyota is a company and nobody listens to the president!
“So, I have to show everybody that Toyota needs rallying to make ever-better cars.
“We don’t know yet [when we will come back to WRC], however, please look at our activities in the future.”