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Undercover Racing: Toyota’s GR Yaris Surprises at Nürburgring

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TEXT: 池ノ内みどり(IKENOUCHI Midori)  PHOTO: 池ノ内みどり(IKENOUHI Midori)

  • Jari-Matti Latvala in the Nürburgring endurance race
  • TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Team in the Nürburgring Endurance Race
  • TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Team in the Nürburgring Endurance Race
  • TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Team in the Nürburgring Endurance Race
  • TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Team in the Nürburgring Endurance Race

Why did Toyota’s top guns and Latvala enter the Nürburgring race?

The Nürburgring endurance race is at the root of the Toyota GR series’ taste creation. As a place that trains people and trains cars, the Nürburgring and GR are inseparable. This time, a GR Yaris was brought there. Both the driver and the car are full of mysteries ……. What is the purpose of this GR Yaris?

This is a racing car, but without livery!

At the Nürburgring Endurance Series (NLS) held from 5 to 7 April 2024, the mysterious GR Yaris attracted interest. The car did not have the livery that is typical of racing cars, but instead had a white body with its number affixed to it.

And it was driven by Jari-Matti Latvala! The veteran driver who holds the world record for the most World Rally Championships (WRC) and will represent the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT from 2023, is a man of great stature who is irresistible to rally fans, so how on earth did he end up in the Nürburgring?

Herwig Daenens, one of Toyota’s top guns who drives a Toyota in the IP (Industry Pool) daily, also joins us. He is a specialist in suspension settings and a key player in the development of the Supra. This was joined by Uwe Kleen, who is based near his hometown of Nürburgring and is the owner of the team that races the ‘GR Supra GT4’.

The transmission is thought to be a GR-DAT specification, but it is an MT specification

The “mystery” GR Yaris entered from the VT2-R 4WD class. Furthermore, the entry was listed as “TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT CR”, and the group in bright red work clothes working in the team pit gave off a Toyota works feel, making it look somewhat ostentatious. According to a source on the scene, they said they could not reveal any details, but only told us that it was for the “improvement of a mass-market vehicle”, but other than that, no other information about the vehicle was available. The body design was the current GR Yaris, and the transmission was the next new GR-DAT, or so we thought, but it was an MT version.

The purpose of participating in the Nürburgring this time was not to compete for time or to achieve high rankings, but to “improve a mass-market car” through racing, and it seemed that they were taking detailed data on each part, with a focus on the suspension. In any case, what was gained from this weekend’s Nürburgring races will be injected into the GR Yaris in some form or another. Whether it will be the GR Yaris, the GRMN, or the Nürburgring Edition that will be launched in a few years, expectations are high.

The event was overflowing with rally fans looking to get their hands on a Latvala

Because of the participation of some of the biggest names in the WRC, the area in front of the pits was always packed with rally fans, and the popularity of the event was still going strong. The GR Yaris and Latvala are not scheduled to compete in the Nürburgring 24 Hour race, but we look forward to seeing how this day’s testing will be utilized in the future.

Comments from Jari-Matti Latvala.

“Throughout this Nürburgring endurance series, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT has had a development program for the GR Yaris and we are happy to have received quite good feedback. I had a lot of fun driving the GR Yaris on the Nordschleife. It’s a track with a rally taste element, so I think that as a rally driver, I had a slightly easier time driving here on the Nordschleife than I did as a GT driver visiting here for the first time.”

translated by DeepL