Motorsport: Toyota joins NZ Rally Champs

By Matthew Hansen

An artist's impression of the Toyota Yaris. Photo / Supplied
An artist's impression of the Toyota Yaris. Photo / Supplied

Toyota's New Zealand motorsport roster is set to expand for 2017, with the manufacturer confirming it will join the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship with a factory-backed single-car effort for Auckland driver Shannon Chambers.

The car will be based on a Toyota Yaris hatchback, but built to AP4 specifications by M2 Competition. Like other AP4-based cars on the grid, it will be four-wheel drive and powered by a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine.

"Seeing increased levels of manufacturer involvement, such as Toyota with our Yaris AP4 programme is great for the rallying in New Zealand," said Chambers.

"This is obviously highlighted by the great support we've received from Auckland City Toyota and Toyota New Zealand."

This isn't the first time a Toyota-supported effort has competed in New Zealand rallying, with Starlets, Corollas, and Celicas all former weapons of choice.

The news comes as the domestic rally championship gains momentum through a flurry of new signings, including Holden New Zealand's two-car team, spearheaded by Greg Murphy.

Chambers couldn't rule out the potential for the Toyota team to follow suit and become a two-car outfit, but confirmed it will field a single car for now.

"We're just going to focus on one car at the moment, but may build another shell as a spare and are open to building a second car for another driver in the future. But for the time being we'll be focusing on getting this one competitive first," he said.

The introduction of AP4-spec cars to the New Zealand Rally Championship has helped reinvigorate interest in the series, with a raft of new manufacturers including Hyundai, Mazda, and Mitsubishi all joining its ranks recently.

"AP4 is as close to a current World Rally Championship specification car as you can get, what's more they are an FIA approved car, which widens the competition opportunities available to you as a driver."

Chambers is no stranger to speed, having formerly competed in the NZ Offshore Powerboat Series and having used a Polish-built Volkswagen Polo R in the last two seasons of the New Zealand Rally Championship.

"I can't wait to get testing. The focus for 2017 will certainly to be up the front and challenging for podiums," he said. "In the old car, we were regularly in the top six of stage finishes, we just need to string together more consistent stage times and we'll be able to grab some podium finishes."

- NZ Herald

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