GR YARIS - Toyota's Tiny Monster
As a guy whose life almost centres around cars, I can say from the heart I feel like with all the government restrictions, worry about climate change, every other eco & safety warrior on the planet becoming a major part of the way car manufacturers have to operate, cars that were built in the background, by the best engineers the manufacturers can find, to be driven hard, by enthusiasts & racers alike have slowly been phased out.
Annoyingly, at the heart of everything, these car companies are a business, their main aim is to make money. They have to or they will disappear so its completely understandable that in 2019 and beyond, the focus on EV, safe, family based SUV's are obviously going to be the foreground of their sales.
But thankfully, the Toyota President Akio Toyoda, or more lovingly known within Toyota as Morizo, exists, but not just exists, he is also in charge of the biggest car manufacturer, in the world.
Passionate about WRC, passionate about racing & the ethos that surrounds it, he put in place the Gazoo Racing department of Toyota, completely separate to their main production line. Gazoo Racing sits as its complete own entity. With its completely own genius engineers, all with a passion for cars, a passion for racing, a passion for creating the cars we all dream to be made.
Thank the universe for Morizo.
With the GR Supra making its debut in sales in 2019, and the GR (Gazoo Racing) badge seen on the back of it, the brand will be soon a household name within the whole car community, as if it isn’t already. It will be reaching out beyond motorsports, with their dominant team across the WRC, WEC & DAKAR, soon GR built cars will be on the posters of young children’s walls, once again we finally have the Hero cars we have been missing for the last 20 years.
3 Years ago, Morizo said that Toyota needed to produce its own home grown, organic race car for the road again, independent from collaboration projects with other companies that we have seen over the last few years with Subaru & BMW, both of which have been incredibly successful for all parties involved. Morizo wanted to show the world what Toyota was truly capable of.
Thus was born, the GR Yaris.
I was invited out by Toyota Uk (@ToyotaUK) to the launch of the new GR Yaris, and as this blog as always been personal for me, I want to take you though the event & also focus in on some specifications of this car.
Disclaimer ; I have not stepped back into the world of blogging for a very long time but this car has sparked within me that fire that I had lost, I'm excited again about a new car, through my years of having contact with manufacturers, not on a grand scale but enough to be able to form opinions of those who run them, it is absolutely no surprise to me that Toyota have taken the handle to create, a modern day masterpiece.
I flew into Portugal courtesy of Toyota UK with not much information the car, all information was under wraps until the day we actually got to drive the car, all we were told flying in was to be excited.
Stood outside the hotel, in a blistering storm with Charlie Tabberner (@CharlieTabb) in the evening, we hear the faint raw of what was to be the White Supra Pictured, followed by this absolute brute of a hot hatch covered in camo wrap. Now this was the first time I'd ever seen a Supra in the flesh, but instantly I was drawn over to this hench little hot hatch. Its wide arches & WRC stance had me hooked from first sight.
Although, I cannot pretend I didn't have a look around the new Supra, I will save this whole speech in case I ever get my hands on one to really experience, but my first impressions is it is an incredibly beautiful machine & I couldn't think of another company I'd rather have had them collaborate with on this project other than BMW. I really want to try one of these cars.
Charlie & I got to have a real up close look at this car for all of about 3 minutes. Unfortunately the car was off to be hidden away until later, but I couldn’t believe how fantastic this car looked. My first question to Matt from Toyota UK was "Is this going to be a production car?" It all just seemed like such concept Ideas to me. "Yes" He replied. *Excitement intensifies*
Heading down to dinner with all the influencers & social media gurus and having already had a small sneak peak around the car, I couldn’t want to actually be able to check it out in person. If you've only ever seen me through my Youtube channel you may think I’m a moronic Essex boy who's only intent on never finishing a project car, but in reality, behind the cameras, I am an out & out car enthusiast. I love their unique shapes, designs but most importantly the reasons WHY they ARE.
Toyota unveiled the car to us before we sat down to eat, what an absolute treat it was to experience this. The car was still under embargo so we wouldn’t and couldn’t post anything online regarding it, it was this unique moment in my life where I truly felt welcomed by a major company into their world. I know I wasn’t there on my own, I know there’s been 2 weeks of Journos and alike all having their way with the car, but for little old me, this was an amazing experience.
I really took every single moment I could to learn about the car, I sat next to Saito-san, chief engineer of the WHOLE project at dinner, which was an honour, I honestly did not feel like I should be being blessed with this experience but I asked as many questions, that I was allowed to (Car specs all under embargo until the next morning so he couldn’t say anything). But the passion that this gentleman shows about this car, his heart & soul is in this car, his ideas & ideals are in this car. This car is has been designed, built & tested by genius racing drivers. Being in his presence was inspiring.
One thing that stood out to me was his story of why he has put big 4 pot brake calipers, with 2 piece discs on the front, and 2pot calipers on the rear along with a rear drum in hut for the handbrake set up. Well he said, he races at Motegi Circuit in Japan there is a hill with a corner at the bottom & during the races his brakes would fade on his own race cars & he wanted to make sure that the GR Yaris never suffered from this problem.
I loved that he took something that he found a problem on other cars he races himself & implemented a solution onto a car that anyone will be able to buy. Brilliant.
The GR Yaris has a beautiful bodyshape to it, 3 door hatches are becoming sparse so having this little brute soon to be available is fantastic news for hot hatch fans!
The car has been tested with Tommi Mäkinen and his team in their wind tunnel to maximise aerodynamics, the way the body flows is absolutely essential for performance.
The body is also made of very thin material all over, its so soft you can push it and see the body fold with no effort. But don’t be put off, this is something the engineers are very excited about, they were not held back by anything & told to build this car for ultimate performance. Saito-San was excited to show this trait of the car off!
Dinner was great, drinks after with everyone was also really cool. I spent a lot of time talking with Kyza @The_Kyza, Jordan @Jay_l_w & Charlie @CharlieTabb this event, it was the first time I’ve met the first two, but I really hit it off with these guys, make sure to check them out on Instagram.
In the morning the bus took us to the circuit & this is where things got really interesting.
They showed us how much this car really was Morizo’s passion project & how the whole Gazoo Racing department is much more than just a bunch of guys building cars, it was a family. This really was apparent in just how everyone was treating each other. Just from an outsider to be able to step back and see so many people so proud of what each other have achieved on the project was fantastic.
The unveiled a naked chassis with all the running gear, exposing the car for how it was created. A 3cyl 1.6 Turbo capable of 257+Bhp! . EVERYTHING is based around racing. They had opened the engine for us to expose the race technology learnt from all their experience in the WRC which was now implemented in to this tiny 1.6 engine, Race values, springs and retainers all on show!
The car will come available in 3 Packs. One is the version which will be in my opinion the most bought, due to price point. It doesn’t have all the race items on it, but it is still incredibly capable. Engine power all still the same, just missing a couple of items that the race pack one will come with, which I will explain in a moment
The middle of the pack is the More comfort based one which can come with more amenities such as upgraded sound systems & sat navs etc.
Finally, the one I think we’re all most interested in is the most hardcore version, which you cannot add all the fancy sat navs and the rest onto, this comes ready to go with 2 X Torsen LSD’s. Upgraded 18inch Forged Wheels and slightly harder spring rates.
Another very interesting feature of the GR Yaris is it will be using forged carbon, as this is the lightest form of the material, once again focusing on light weight body to maximise performance, the car will also feature a Carbon roof! Cannot wait to see it without the camo wrap on.
The 4WD system, you can tell by speaking to any of the Toyota team, is something they are very passionate and proud of. Leading on from the days where they would build all their own 4WD systems for their incredible GT-4 Celica’s, the GR Yaris system is the lighter than both the twin coupling system & the centre diff system.
The 4WD Mode has a switch in the cabin too hosting 3 modes :
Normal : 60:40 ; which is best for city driving or just normal driving.
Sport : 30:70; for when you want to play with the car, get the back end out!
RACE: 50:50; for when stuff gets really serious. But more on this later when I get to put It to the test on the track.
When I agreed to come on this trip, all I was told was that I would be driving their new hot hatch around a track, which was I couldn’t have agreed faster to come on haha. But regardless I was still a tad nervous when putting on the helmet to go out on my first laps in the torrential rain.
Speaking from the heart, I’ve never, ever enjoyed a wet track day, to the point now where I try to actively avoid them. So my heart was pounding knowing I was a guest of Toyota UK about to go out in their newest car on a race track which was absolutely covered in water in a rain storm.
Sighting laps done, now it is my turn. My heart was racing. I was trying to tell myself to concentrate and relax, as the car is, thankfully, a Manual ! So it was LHD Manual out on track in the rain… lets just say I was hoping this car was as good as they were saying as I’d need its help as much as possible!
I started out in Sport mode ; 30:70 diff bias. And the car was a blast, there was enough grip to feel confident enough to throw the car in, but not too much for it not to be overly serious, I was throwing it around and letting it step out & it was actually making me laugh out loud due to how fun it was!
I was then told to put it into race mode & this is where I really started to focus, I cannot explain how well this car gripped in the rain, I really was sticking it around the corners in this rainstorm and the car not once broke grip, I couldn’t believe it. The car was only on Dunlop tyres too, and the one I was driving didn’t have the 2LSD’s ! which makes me curious to how the fully spec’d race pack will improve this car even more.
It gave me a confidence in a car I’ve never, ever experienced before & I only got 15 minutes in the drivers seat. The Steering wheel is perfect. The size is fantastic & its got a soft leather grip, I loved it. Clutch was amazing, gearbox felt perfect. The complete package.
I had to give my car back unfortunately, and allow the other influencers to give the car a go, unwillingly may I add. I truly loved my time in the GR-Yaris.
I wish I could get over to the Tokyo Auto Salon to see the reveal in person. This is something I will be hooked online to make sure I get to see. If you’re going & would like to photo the event for me, drop me a message @6two1 !
I want to thank Andy & Matt at Toyota for inviting me along on this trip, it was truly fantastic & a memory now I will never, ever forget.
Oh Did I mention I met Fernando Alonso on the trip too & was out on track in a car in a dog fight with him too (all be it from a passenger seat, but still, COMMON!!)
The Price for these little pocket rockets starts ONLY £29,995
Which for one of these little Pocket Rockets is an
Toyota treated us like royalty & gave us the opportunity to drive, what I believe is the most important car in the hot hatch sector in the last 15 years.
Follow the Toyota Instgram accounts below for updates on this incredible creation.
& Check out the other people who were on this trip with me from the UK & Europe ;