The future of the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) that wasn’t looking too bright has just received a big boost thanks to two entries put in by Toyota with their Etios for the upcoming Coffee Day India rally in Chikmagalur. With rallies just running a one day format to cut cost, events getting cancelled or delayed, while the newer events don’t seem to run at the best of standards, the number of competitors at each rally is going down. This is despite the best efforts of the promoters of the championship, RRPM, to provide support from their end. But the introduction of a new car to the sport in India could rekindle the excitement amongst teams and privateers alike as Toyota will enter with a new car, the first new car in the championship since the 2013 season, when the Volkswagen Polo made its debut.
The entry of a new manufacturer should also make Volkswagen Motorsport, who support all privateers running group N and R2 Polos and Mahindra Adventure who run two SuperXUVs in the INRC pull up their socks, for the new challenge the Toyotas will put up. For their debut rally, we have news that the Toyotas will be driven by a Japanese crew that are part of TRD, who have some prior rallying experience and have been testing the Etios rally car over the past few months.
The Etios rally car is being developed and built in India, just like the Etios race cars were, though at this time we have no confirmation or details of the specifications the car will run. We expect it to be a group N spec for now to test the waters and judge the pace of the car against the rest of the field. May be a more powerful version to challenge for the overall crown as time goes on, especially with Toyota Gazoo Racing running a full fledged WRC assault with Yaris. The team has even managed to win a couple of rallies in their debut season and have run a successful campaign. The Yaris WRC’s debut in 2017 came 18 years after Toyota left the WRC with four driver and three manufacturer world championships under their belt till date. In those years, they won many rallies with the Celica, GT-Four and Corolla WRC cars, with such legends such as Carlos Sainz, Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol at behind the wheel.
There’s no reason why Toyota can’t repeat their success in India, having entered the motorsport scene a few years back when they ran the Etios Cup races. Running against Volkswagen, Mahindra, new cars from the Maruti Suzuki stables and old works horses from the Mitsubishi and Honda stables in INRC, they won’t have it all so easy, but the Etios’ low kerb weight, reliable and rev happy 1.5 litre petrol engine in group N trim, should make for a good combination in a rally car. While also trying to beat these more established cars in the championship from the word go sure sounds like a challenge, that’s where the expertise from the WRC campaign should help them build a good car. If there’s one thing we have come to know of Toyota as a brand, with their various road cars which people trust in so blindly and with good reason too, is the determination to succeed and they are pro motorsports with all the campaigns they are running in different series worldwide.
Motor Sport India understands that there is still no decision over precisely how many rallies Toyota will run with Etios in 2017 and if they will pursue running the entire championship in 2018. But we hope for the sake of rallying in India, they do as it will definitely be a huge boost for the sport. For now, they will run the Coffee Day India rally, round 4 of the Indian National Rally Championship and also the final round Asia Pacific Rally Championship to be held in Chikmagalur, Karnataka between November 24 and 26.