In July 2015, Toyota came to a decision that they would be returning to the World Rally Championship (WRC) with a little over 500 days before the start of the 2017 season, time was going to prove a huge challenge.
The foundation of the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team (TGR WRT), first began when President and CEO Akio Toyoda, looked to improve on his rally driving style. He looked towards Tommi Mäkinen, a four-time WRC Champion to help with fine-tuning his driving form through different terrains.
They hit it off in an instant through their passion for rallying. It was after Mäkinen built a rally car, and going through Rally Finland 2016 together in a rally-tuned GT86 did their visions truly align. Toyoda highlighted that there are issues that will not arise on a test circuit. However, the rallies provide real roads to push the car to its fullest potential and enables Toyota to further improve their cars through motorsports.
From then on, it was about finding the right team. Starting at the top of the development phase, Mäkinen brought in WRC veteran Jarmo Lehtinen as Sporting Director, overseeing the hiring process, he was to become the pioneering batch of employees to join the team.
Through Lehtinen, Tom Fowler was brought in as Engineering Manager, working toward Mäkinen’s ambition of wanting to produce the best possible Rally Championship car. With the aim of winning rallies and Championships, not just for the sake of participation.
Simon Carrier, the Chief Designer is the man behind every design decision made to the car. He works very closely with the Engineering Manager to finalize the concept for the project and then sending the designs out for manufacturing. Senior designer Kevin Postec, a.k.a the right-hand man of Simon, mainly focuses on the chassis design, suspension, gear-box, suspension and engine integration, helping Simon to achieve the best possible design for the TGR WRT.
However, the TGR WRT still lacked drivers. In a series of coincidences, Volkswagen pulled out of the WRC in the same year, leaving their ace driver and co-driver on the open market. The team wasted no time hesitating as Jari-Matti Latvala and his co-driver Miikka Anttila were quickly brought into the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing family.
The team was blessed with a talent pool that was hungry and motivated to be part of winning the coveted WRC title. They filled the gaps of individuals as the project moved along, and the lean team started to take shape when mechanics were brought in to build the cars. Working tirelessly, 7 days a week over 6 months, they turned their WRC dream into a reality.
Believing in the Mäkinen’s vision to win the WRC, his team spoke highly of their experience of working with him on the project, where many of them sold their apartments and left their wives at home in their pursuit to make a rally winning car.
After spending months building the rally car, the first prototype was met with praises from the Team Principal, find out how the team managed to snowball their situation into a successful start of the WRC season in Part 2!