How the Toyota GR Yaris’ 2021 debut’s been saved down under

The new model won't be in the WRC, but Australian Rally Championship fans will see a AP4 version of the car


Toyota’s GR Yaris is a born-to-be rally car. All it needs is a stage. Come Canberra, come March, that stage will be set.

The world’s most powerful mass production three-cylinder engine will be front and center next season when Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia fields its GR Yaris AP4 car for the 2021 Australian Rally Championship.

Revealed in Australia on Thursday, the all-new rally car represents a significant change in thinking for a car which is being developed in collaboration with Neal Bates Motorsport (NBM). For the first time, Toyota’s Port Melbourne-based product planning and development division has been involved in the design of a rally car.

While the car was only unveiled this week, Toyota Australia and NBM have been working since March on the car Harry Bates will use to defend his 2019 Australian title next year.

Already an aggressive-looking motor in road car form, the GR Yaris AP4 comes with a heavily revised aerodynamic package including new front fender, rear bumper, rear quarters, bonnet vents and rear wing.

The AP4 class is Asia’s answer to Rally2, built to a similar spec but with locally sourced parts to avoid high importing costs.

Toyota Australia chief designer Nic Hogios said this was a project the firm had been waiting for.


“This project has been amazing to be a part of, as the base car is really exciting in its road car form,” he said. “So it’s a really great place to start – the GR Yaris is simply bred for rallying.

“We all follow motorsport religiously and have been keenly following TGR Australia over the years and we thought why can’t we utilize the great skills we have in our people and the technology we have, to really support the team to create something extraordinary?

“There are no compromises, it’s a race car, it’s not here for styling although we wanted to make it look as good as possible and that is part of the GR philosophy, it’s all about functional beauty.”

Neal Bates – father to TGR Australia drivers Harry and Lewis and a four-time Australian Rally Champion himself – is similarly excited about the new car.

“I’ve had an exciting career with Toyota and motorsport for over 30 years and the new GR Yaris is remarkable in its performance and race capability,” Bates Sr said.

“It gives us an amazing platform to start with. We have got a carbon fibre roof; we’ve got aluminium doors; we’ve got the lightest and most powerful three-cylinder turbo mass-production engine in the world; we’ve got an incredibly wide stance and all-wheel drive. It’s literally made to be rallied.”


Having a near-rally-ready car land down under is nothing new for Bates, who won three of his titles at the wheel of a Group A Celica GT-Four. More recently, however, his team has had to create cars like the four-wheel-drive AP4 out of a road-going, front-wheel-drive Yaris.

“We have built a lot of rally cars starting with the Celica GT-Four which was an all-wheel drive turbo,” he added.

“But, from then on, there was a lot of work involved modifying Celicas and Corollas into all-wheel-drive rally cars. This is an amazing car to start with.

“If you have a look at the current Yaris AP4s we built, we had to put a different engine in, we had to change it to all-wheel-drive, we had to develop the body kit, so for us this car will be easier and simpler to build.”

Bates’ firm will build a pair of GR Yaris AP4s for Harry and Lewis.

Harry said: “I’m very excited to get into the new GR Yaris AP4 and see how it goes as a rally car.

“This is a game-changer, the first of its kind in Australia and I can see how it’s going to give me the edge. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel.”

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