It’s been a long, long time since anyone could be excited about buying a Toyota Yaris. Perhaps when the first generation T-Sport released, but maybe not even then. The GR Yaris really is something to be excited about though.
Developed by the Gazoo Racing WRC team, and produced in Toyota’s ‘supercar’ Motomachi plant where the company’s best engineers previously worked on the Lexus LFA, the GR Yaris is truly special.
If my memory serves me correct, this is Toyota’s first rally homologation model since Subaru and Mitsubishi were in the WRC. Mentioning Mitsubishi is very appropriate too, since the GR Yaris development was managed by no other than four-time World Rally Champion Tommi Mäkinen.
In actual competition, the rally car will debut later this month at the WRC’s iconic Monte Carlo season opener. Just looking at the GR Yaris, it’s clearly visible that Toyota is serious about dominating the championship.
The lengths that the Gazoo Racing engineers at Toyota went to in repurposing the five-door Yaris platform as an all-terrain warrior is fascinating. The rear doors were deleted, the roofline was sloped for better aerodynamics, extra room was made for the lightest AWD system in existence and the rear track was widened. The only exterior details that the GR Yaris shares with the supermarket-spec Yaris are the lights and mirrors.
While the stock GR Yaris is pretty cool, today I’m here to share with you a project car from Finland that I spied at Ultrace 2021 in Poland. Matias Mäenpää, the Yaris’s owner, didn’t bat an eyelid while cutting the car’s original fenders to make way for one of Kei Miura’s latest wide bodykit creations.
I love how aggressive the Pandem kit for the GR Yaris is, and am especially fond of the rectangular wheel arches, which now accommodate 18-inch RAYS Volk Racing 21Cs. Matias told me that the livery design took inspiration from the classic Toyota race cars and was designed by long-time Toyota petrolhead and tattoo artist Junnu.
The interior has most of the creature comforts still in place, but it doesn’t lack upgrades. The heated seats were swapped for racing buckets from Atech Racing and 6-point harnesses by SCHROTH Racing, while the standard shifter was upgraded for a spring-assisted unit from CAE. The rear seat space was stripped and filled by a custom roll cage.
An individual touch is young WRC star Kalle Rovanperä’s autograph on the dash.
With plenty of performance from factory, the three-cylinder engine under-hood was left untouched, save for a custom exhaust system.
It always interests me when a brand new car becomes a project base, and this GR Yaris was delivered to Matias from the factory at essentially the same time the Pandem kit arrived from Japan. It’s always cool to see such projects appear, and best of all be driven.