The GR YARIS Rally1 is the successor to the all-conquering Yaris WRC, which claimed a clean sweep of the manufacturers’, drivers’ and co-drivers’ in the 2021 season that concluded just eight weeks ago at Monza in Italy. Now, the roads of the French Alps will play host to the first event for the revolutionary Rally1 cars, which take over from the World Rally Cars that have formed the highest category of the WRC for the past quarter of a century.
Rally1 cars feature several significant changes compared to their predecessors, headlined by the arrival of hybrid technology to the highest level of rallying for the first time. The hybrid unit in each car comprises of a 3.9kWh battery and a motor-generator unit (MGU) delivering an additional 100 kW (134 PS) under acceleration.
In the GR YARIS Rally1, this is combined with the proven 1.6-litre turbocharged engine from the Yaris WRC to provide the drivers with over 500 PS. The engine will run on a 100 per cent sustainable fuel: The first of its kind to be used in an FIA world championship.
The GR YARIS Rally1 is built around a dedicated spaceframe chassis offering increased safety protection for drivers and co-drivers. Other transformations required by the regulations include less complex aerodynamics, a return to a mechanical gearshift and the removal of the active centre differential.
These changes will increase the focus on the skills of the drivers, who will also need to adapt to the demands around regenerating and deploying the hybrid energy on the stages, while working with their engineers to optimise the performance and drivability within these new parameters.
Since it ran for the first time last spring, the GR YARIS Rally1 has undergone a thorough testing programme which for the last few weeks has been focused on the particular demands of Rallye Monte-Carlo. The event is famed for its changeable conditions, which can vary from dry asphalt to snow and ice, and could provide an especially challenging start for the drivers in their new cars.
When the rally begins on Thursday night, the GR YARIS Rally1 of reigning champion Sébastien Ogier will be the first of the new generation of cars to start a competitive stage. The eight-time world champion, who has also won Rallye Monte-Carlo a record eight times, is embarking on a partial schedule of events this season along with a new co-driver, Benjamin Veillas.
Leading TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s effort over the full season will be Elfyn Evans and his co-driver Scott Martin, who finished second in the 2021 standings, and Kalle Rovanperä and his co-driver Jonne Halttunen, who came fourth overall last season.
A total of four GR YARIS Rally1 cars will be present on every round with Takamoto Katsuta and co-driver Aaron Johnston contesting the full season for a newly-created team, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team Next Generation.
The crews today begin three days of reconnaissance of the stages, 85 per cent of which are new compared to 2021. For the 90th edition of the rally, the service park moves to Monaco itself from Gap. After a shakedown on Thursday morning, the rally will begin in the evening from the iconic Casino Square ahead of an opening pair of night stages – the second includes a return to the classic Col de Turini, to be passed in darkness for the first time since 2013.
Friday is the longest day of the rally and consists of three stages to be run twice with no mid-day service, only a tyre-fitting zone in Puget-Théniers. The task is similar on Saturday, which takes place further to the west: Three stages will be run in the morning, two of which will be repeated in the afternoon after a tyre-fitting zone in Digne-les-Bains. The rally’s final day on Sunday is made up of two stages run twice – the latter stage finishing in Entrevaux is the only one that is identical to last year.