Toyota Corolla WRC: story of a world champion

toyota corolla wrc

With small size came packaging and servicing problems. In order to fit all equipment in the car, engine was fitted transversely and mated with new XTrac sequential gearbox.

The Toyota Corolla WRC is a World Rally Car built for the Toyota Castrol Team [es] by Toyota Motorsport GmbH to compete in the World Rally Championship. It is based upon the E110 version of Toyota Corolla road car. The car was debuted at the 1997 Rally Finland, and replaced the Toyota Celica Turbo ST205. It won a total of four rally victories and the 1999 World Manufacturers’ title.

A premise is necessary. Coming in the wake of successful Celica, Corolla was a car of quite different philosophy and character. Whereas Celica was based on bigger sports car, Corolla was bred under new World Rally Car regulations and took its shape from mass-produced FWD car. Shorter, with small overhangs and wheels on corners, Corolla had almost as long wheelbase as Celica despite being much shorter.

With small size came packaging and servicing problems. In order to fit all equipment in the car, engine was fitted transversely and mated with new XTrac sequential gearbox. TTE had enough experience from WRC and tried to make car as serviceable as possible, but as Didier Auriol found out in Monte Carlo 1998, changing bent steering rack from such a small car is likely to incur time penalties.

Car used the same basic engine than last Celica but according to TTE, some 80 percent of it was new. In New Zealand 1998, completely new engine was introduced, taken from Lexus and Toyota promptly scored 1-2 result. Already in 1998 it was rumored that Toyota was planning entry in Formula One and that rallying would be done away with. And indeed in San Remo 1999, Ove Andersson revealed that “focus of Toyota’s motorsport activities will change”.

After Toyota withdrew from WRC, many Corolla WRC’s found their way to privateer hands and for a some time it was the best choice for a private driver. Some new development, mainly concentrating on suspension, was done even in this late stage and it was found out that works Corolla’s had had too hard suspension and that car worked much better with softer springs.

Competition history

The Toyota Corolla WRC (World Rally Car) is special purpose rally car based on the European Corolla 3 door Hatchback (E110), and powered by a modified 3S-GTE engine with water-cooled turbo system producing 223 kW (299 hp) and 4WD system copied from the Toyota Celica GT-Four ST205.

It was launched in July 1997, and made its debut at the 1997 Rally Finland with Didier Auriol and Marcus Grönholm behind the wheel.

For 1998 WRC season, double World Rally Champions Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya joined the Toyota Team Europe, and won the 1998 Monte Carlo Rally. It was the first victory for the Corolla WRC. Didier Auriol won the 1999 China Rally, and Toyota won the 1999 manufacturer’s title while the company stopped participating in rallying, in order to prepare for a switch to Formula One in 2002.

“Formula One is a new challenge and it’s our biggest so far,” said Ove Andersson, president of German-based Toyota Motorsport. “Very few companies are brave enough to enter Formula One and even fewer decide to do it all on their own.”