Toyota is no stranger to unorthodox rally cars. Earlier this year, the car maker teamed up with pilot Ryan Millen to turn a family-friendly RAV4 crossover into a stripped-out racer capable of driving flat-out in Rally America events.
On the other side of the globe, Toyota recently built a custom-designed Mirai that’s being used as a stage opener during the ADAC Rally Deutschland, a World Rally Championship (WRC) event taking place near Trier, Germany. The stage opener drives the course at a brisk pace before the race officially kicks off, so the Mirai isn’t competing directly against rally-bred machines, but Toyota couldn’t resist the urge to deck it out with performance brake pads and rally tires. Inside, the sedan gets a pair of bucket seats and a full roll cage.
Mechanically, the stage opener is identical in every way to the 200 U.S.-spec Mirai sedans that Toyota expects to send to California this year. That means it’s powered by a fuel cell that works in conjunction with an electric motor to spin the front wheels. The drivetrain makes 153 horsepower and sends the 4,078-pound Mirai from zero to 60 mph in 9.6 seconds. A low center of gravity makes it more entertaining to drive than the aforementioned numbers suggest.
Toyota will make a long-awaited return to WRC racing in 2017 when it lines up at the starting grid with a heavily-modified version of the tiny Yaris. It will be powered by a conventional gasoline-burning engine, but the company could eventually build a hydrogen-powered rally car.
“It is our dream that one day our fuel cell vehicles will be able to compete in WRC. Spectators at the Rallye Deutschland will have to get used to this noiseless premiere at Trier, but they’ll experience the art of an almost pollution-free future,” affirmed Yoshikazu Tanaka, the Mirai’s chief engineer.
The Mirai is on sale now in California, though availability is highly limited and interested buyers need to complete an interview with a Toyota representative to see whether or not they’re eligible to own a hydrogen-powered car. The sedan is scheduled to go on sale in the United Kingdom, in Germany, and in Denmark in the coming months.