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Toyota plans World Rally Championship return in 2017 with new Yaris-based racer

Looks like Lexus isn’t the only ones feeling the motorsport itch. Toyota’s been out of the Rally game since ’99, but according to an announcement made today, the Japanese automaker is set to return in 2017.

For their return to the World Rally Championship, Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) is already underway with developing and testing a new Yaris for competition. A1.6-liter direct- injection turbo four-cylinder will be under the hood. Though it performance info isn’t yet available, it will be capable of around 300 horsepower and send power to all four wheels via a six-speed sequential gearbox.

As you can imagine, starting from scratch after a 20-year hiatus is a pretty big challenge, but TMG seems to have a very dedicated and passionate team behind the rallying Yaris’ development. The car is currently testing on both tarmac and gravel surfaces across Europe, and the team is hoping to capitalize on vehicle reliability so it survives the rugged conditions the drivers will be thrashing it through. The careful balance of a powerful enough engine, reliable suspension, and keeping the weight down, is key to giving the rally car a wide performance window for the driver to utilize throughout the changing conditions.

Related: Volkswagen defends its Rally championship with the 2015 Polo R WRC

TMG is the same division that have built the LMP1 endurance racers currently competing in the World Endurance Championship. This car’s arrival on the WEC circuit was certainly felt when they brought hybrid power to endurance racing in 2012, leading to the team’s victory last year. This shook up things for the often dominating mainstays of the sport Audi’s team Joest. If they can duplicate these results in rally, Audi parent company and WRC dominator Volkswagen might have cause for concern.