The Corolla was chosen as Team Toyota Europe’s (TTE) campaign vehicle, when they returned to the World Rally Championship following their expulsion due to major technical infringements on the Celica GT-Four.
Whilst having a strong pedigree the Corolla departed from the design of the Celica in many ways most noticeably its size. Not only was it shorter, it also had a narrower track and shorter overhangs at both the front and rear which lead to early concerns that its diminutive size would compromise the handling on fast stages.
These early fears proved unfounded as TTE had undertaken extensive wind tunnel testing to fine tune the aerodynamics and in so doing created a car that had a low centre of gravity and a consistent balance of front and rear down force at both high and low speeds.
The Corolla made its competitive debut on the 1997 Indonesian Rally, but its WRC debut and TTE return to topflight rallying came on that year’s Rally Finland. After just three events TTE was back on the podium as Didier Auriol brought home the Corolla in third place on the Rally Australia.
Although 1998 began well with Sainz taking an emphatic win on the season opening event Monte Carlo, the season would end in heartbreak on Rally Great Britain. Only needing fourth place to grab the title, the Spaniard’s rally-leading Corolla died just 500m from the finish, leaving him head-in-hands as Mitsubishi’s Richard Burns took the victory and rival Tommi Mäkinen grabbed the title. Many people will remember the television pictures of Luis Moya (Sainz’s co-driver) taking his frustrations out on the car by throwing his crash helmet through the rear windscreen.
1999 saw Toyota bounce back to secure the Manufacturer’s title in what would prove to be their last WRC campaign as they turned their attentions to the glamour of Formula 1.
Engine : Turbo Charged, Fuel Injected, 4 Cylinder, DOHC, 16V 2ltr,
Power : 300 BHP +