IN a significant boost in support for local motor sport, Toyota Australia has announced the formation of a factory-backed Toyota GAZOO Racing Australia rally team to campaign two Yaris AP4 rally cars in the 2019 Australian Rally Championship.
The new rally team will make its debut with leading Australian driver Harry Bates behind the wheel of the Yaris at Rally Australia in Coffs Harbour from November 15-18 this year, where Bates and co-driver John McCarthy will compete in the final rounds of both the Australian Rally Championship (ARC) and the WRC2 classification in the World Rally Championship.
Next year, the factory-backed rally team will add a second Yaris AP4, to be driven by Lewis Bates.
Toyota chief marketing officer Wayne Gabriel said the announcement of the new Toyota GAZOO Racing Australia rally team marked the beginning of new era for Toyota motor sport in Australia.
“Toyota has always recognised the value of participating in motor sport as a means of developing ever more durable, reliable and exciting cars,” Mr Gabriel said.
“This is a philosophy that underpins Toyota GAZOO Racing that runs the global motor sports program – including the leading World Rally Championship team – which in turn, feeds into its development of our new sports and performance cars,” he said.
“Now with the factory backing of Toyota GAZOO Racing Australia, we have no doubt Harry and Lewis will carry on the Bates family success.”
Both Harry and Lewis Bates have been competing in the 2018 ARC season, with Harry in the Toyota Genuine Parts-sponsored Yaris and Lewis driving a Corolla S2000.
Going into the final ARC round at Rally Australia, Harry Bates is currently sitting second in the driver’s championship and is in contention for the drivers’ title, with Lewis in sixth place.
The new Toyota GAZOO Racing Australia rally team will be headed by Neal Bates and based in Canberra, running out of the premises of Neal Bates Motorsport.
Team principal Neal Bates said he was proud to have had a long and successful partnership with Toyota and was looking forward running the team under the Australian arm of the global Toyota GAZOO Racing brand.
“Our long history with Toyota in Australia has been a great one for me personally with its support helping myself and Coral Taylor, my long-term co driver, to four Australian titles,” Mr Bates said.
“I am immensely proud that Harry and Lewis can continue our very strong partnership with the brand and we as a team have the opportunity to run under the Toyota GAZOO Racing banner that is growing across the globe.”
Toyota GAZOO Racing was established by Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan in April 2015 as the unifying brand for all its motor sport activities including the World Rally Championship and Le Mans-winning World Endurance Championship teams.
In 2017, Toyota GAZOO Racing harnessed that experience gained through motor sport and added the GR product brand to develop sports cars and components for special edition models.