The Toyota WRC car you might’ve missed

We throw back a decade to an often forgotten testing program for this edition of picture of the week

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If you’ve been even a casual observer of the World Rally Championship over the last seven years, it’s fair to say you’ll be fairly used to the sight of a Toyota Yaris rally car.

In fact, between the Japanese brand’s Yaris WRC and GR Yaris Rally1, it has racked up 42 wins, five drivers’ titles and four manufacturers’ titles – that equates to a lot of TV time and a lot of headlines in the recent past.

But this picture of a Yaris might catch you off guard, as it did me.

Flicking through Girardo & Co.’s fantastic WRC archive, I stumbled across this image from Toyota’s testing program.

Test Toyota Yaris Wrc Tergu (ITA) 24-06-2014

The Cologne-based Toyota squad began testing a Yairs WRC in 2014, with this picture taken during a run in Italy

Clearly, this Yaris was built to the 2011-16 regulations, before the beefy wings and aggressive aero of the 2017 rules package that Toyota made its long-awaited WRC return under. That fact alone is enough to trigger some surprise.

But what’s even more astonishing is the date on which this picture was taken: June 24, 2014.

Yes, 2014!

Toyota’s Cologne operation was testing for a WRC return three years before the Yaris WRC made its competition debut on the 2017 Monte Carlo Rally.

It’s a staggering reminder of just how difficult it is to develop a rally car, and a team, capable of competing at world championship level when you’re starting from scratch. There’s so much knowledge about this very specific sport that can only be learned through trial and error on the road.

Even more extraordinary is Tommi Mäkinen’s Finnish-based team started on a new car pretty much from scratch, once agreement came from Japan that Toyota’s WRC comeback was on.