Toyota ‘never intended to use’ previous test bodywork

Technical director Tom Fowler explained that Toyota wanted to set its rivals on a wild goose chase

Ogier test

Toyota has mirrored its World Rally Championship rival Hyundai in trying to play mental games, having disguised the bodywork package it will compete with in 2022 until this week’s test in France.

Hyundai pulled a similarly deceptive trick in October when it held its simulated Rally1 test and invited members of the media – including DirtFish – but it later transpired that the i20 N Rally1 it was testing was a prototype and only the rims were carried over to the actual car.

In a media call on Monday, Toyota technical director Tom Fowler was asked how close the Yaris Rally1 seen in testing would be to the car that will contest the Monte Carlo Rally in five weeks’ time, and he confirmed that “the car which is visible in the test this week is the homologated bodywork”.

“There may be now and again during the tests some different items put on and off for various reasons,” he added, “but effectively this base bodywork is the homologated version that we have submitted to the FIA.”

But later in response to a question about the level of aerodynamic devices the team has run in testing, Fowler admitted Toyota had deliberately used different bodywork designs in an attempt to deceive its rivals.

“You will have seen various body styles through the testing,” he said.

“Basically none of these body styles which you have seen before the one which has been displayed this week were ever intended to be used in rally, they were always things for Hyundai and Ford to take pictures of and spend time analyzing.

Ogier test 2

“Which is the same thing as we did in 2015 and 2016 when everyone said everything was wrong and illegal and so on. Our main target with the bodywork through this year has been to make things which make other people put as much energy as possible into trying to understand what they are, and behind the scenes of course we’ve been working on the regulation with the FIA.

“There has been some discussion around some of the aerodynamic features because, like what happens in F1 – even recently with rear wings on Mercedes and so on – there’s a definition written down on paper but how that translates into a 3D surface is quite complicated.

“One person’s idea of what this group of words means compared to 10 other people is never the same, so this regulation was handled in such a way that we had to prepare our aerodynamics for inspection by the FIA in 3D a long time ago and some of our devices were defined as being over the limit and some were defined as OK, and we had to tune our final package.

“But you haven’t seen any of those as they never existed in real life.”

Teams are understandably secretive about the development of their Rally1 machines for next season given the scale of the rules reset.

But both Toyota and M-Sport were awarded a chance to inspect Hyundai’s interpretation of the rules after Thierry Neuville’s crash at the beginning of December.

Fowler said he did look at pictures of the crashed Hyundai without any of its rear bodywork, but added the photos were “very, very poor quality so I didn’t spend too much time on it”.

Pushed if he could see anything different in Hyundai’s packaging compared to Toyota’s, Fowler added: “I think there’s some differences in hybrid cooling layout, that looks a bit different to ours, [it’s] difficult to say from this picture to be honest.

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“And of course the previous team principal of that car [Andrea Adamo], he’s the main game player so you never know what he’s showing or not showing. So if you’ve seen something from a Hyundai probably it’s not real!”

Asked by DirtFish what he made of M-Sport Ford’s interpretation of the rules, Fowler explained that the Puma Rally1 looks a lot different to the Yaris – largely because of the different sizes of each vehicle.

“The first thing is with this regulation you are allowed to make a small car bigger or a big car smaller, so in our case with the Yaris in order to comply with the minimum dimensions we’ve made a small car bigger and a Puma is a big car made smaller, so we’ve used different avenues through the regulation to come to the same size,” Fowler said.


“So this automatically creates some differences just because when you go through the regulation there’s effectively a junction that says, ‘How big is your car?’ If it’s shorter than this turn left, if it’s longer than this turn right and then you have different sections to follow depending if you’re shrinking or increasing your car.

“But in terms of the aerodynamic things which were quite obvious, I think they’ve pushed quite hard on aerodynamics would be one obvious thing, which is good to see.

“But otherwise it’s quite a different concept to ours I would say.”