Toyota Australia is significantly boosting its support for local motorsport, announcing the formation of a factory-backed Toyota GAZOO Racing Australia rally team to campaign two Yaris AP4 rally cars in the Australian Rally Championship.
The new rally team will make its debut with leading Australian driver Harry Bates behind the wheel of the Yaris at Rally Australia in Coffs Harbour from November 16 -19.
Bates and co-driver John McCarthy will compete in the final rounds of both the Australian Rally Championship (ARC) and the WRC2 classification in the World Rally Championship.
Next year, the factory-backed rally team will add a second Yaris AP4 driven by Lewis Bates with both cars competing in the 2019 Australian Rally Championship season.
Toyota chief marketing officer Wayne Gabriel said the announcement of the new Toyota GAZOO Racing Australia rally team marked the beginning of new era for Toyota motorsport in Australia.
“Toyota has always recognised the value of participating in motorsport as a means of developing ever more durable, reliable and exciting cars,” Mr Gabriel said.
“This is a philosophy that underpins Toyota GAZOO Racing that runs the global motorsports program - including the leading World Rally Championship team – which in turn, feeds into its development of our new sports and performance cars.
“Australians have long had an enthusiastic appetite for motorsport and performance cars and we are committed to delivering the excitement they offer through initiatives like the new rally team we are launching today.
“Harry Bates is a very talented driver who comes from Australian rallying royalty with his father, Neal, having won four Australian titles driving his legendary Celica GT-Four in the 1990s and then the Corolla S2000 in 2008.
“Now with the factory backing of Toyota GAZOO Racing Australia, we have no doubt Harry and Lewis will carry on the Bates family success.”
Both Harry and Lewis Bates have been competing in the 2018 ARC season with Harry in the Toyota Genuine Parts-sponsored Yaris and Lewis driving a Corolla S2000.
Going into the final ARC round at Rally Australia, Harry Bates is currently sitting second in the driver’s championship and is in contention for the drivers’ title, with Lewis in sixth place.
The new Toyota GAZOO Racing Australia rally team will be headed by Neal Bates and based in Canberra, running out of the premises of Neal Bates Motorsport.
Team principal Neal Bates said he was proud to have had a long and successful partnership with Toyota and was looking forward running the team under the Australian arm of the global Toyota GAZOO Racing brand.
“Our long history with Toyota in Australia has been a great one for me personally with its support helping myself and Coral Taylor, my long-term co driver, to four Australian titles,” Mr Bates said.
“I am immensely proud that Harry and Lewis can continue our very strong partnership with the brand and we as a team have the opportunity to run under the Toyota GAZOO Racing banner that is growing across the globe.”
Toyota GAZOO Racing was established by Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan in April 2015 as the unifying brand for all its motorsport activities including the World Rally Championship and Le Mans-winning World Endurance Championship teams.
In 2017, Toyota GAZOO Racing harnessed that experience gained through motorsport and added the GR product brand to develop sports cars and components for special edition models.
TOYOTA RALLY MILESTONES
- 1957: Toyota’s global debut in motorsport with a Toyopet Crown entered in the Mobilgas Rally (round Australia) driven by two Japanese Toyota employees with an Australian navigator. The team completed the 14,500km rally finishing in third place among foreign entries
- 1975: Hannu Mikkola takes first win for the factory-backed Toyota team in a WRC event at the 1000 Lakes Rally in Finland in a Group 4 Corolla Levin TE27
- 1979: First ever Toyota entry in the Dakar Rally
- 1984-86: Toyota wins three consecutive WRC Safari Rallies in East Africa, considered at the time to be the toughest in the championship
- 1989: Juha Kankkunen wins the first WRC Rally Australia in Perth in a Toyota Celica GT-Four ST165
- 1990: Nine podium finishes including four wins for Carlos Sainz in a Celica GT-Four gives Toyota its first WRC drivers’ championship title
- 1993: Toyota becomes the first Japanese carmaker to win a WRC manufacturers’ title, with Juha Kankkunen winning his first drivers’ championship with Toyota
- 1993: Neal Bates and Coral Taylor win the first Australian Rally Championship title for Toyota in a Celica GT-Four
- 1995: Toyota Australia team of Bates/Taylor win their third consecutive Australian Rally Championship title
- 1999: Toyota wins its third WRC manufacturer’s title with the Corolla WRC and ceases its factory-backed WRC involvement to concentrate on other forms of motorsport
- 2008: Bates and Taylor win Australian Rally Championship for Toyota in a Corolla S2000
- 2017: Toyota GAZOO Racing re-enters the World Rally Championship with the Yaris WRC and a team of three drivers under team principal, former world champion Tommi Mäkinen.
- 2017: Jari-Matti Latvala wins Rally Sweden for Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT in only its second rally since re-entering WRC. Latvala finishes the 13-round season in fourth place in the drivers’ standings
- 2018: Toyota leads manufacturers’ standings in WRC after four rally wins in Argentina, Finland, Germany and Turkey with only Rally Australia remaining
- 2018: Three Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT drivers in the top five led by Ott Tänak in third place with only the final round at Rally Australia remaining