Toyota lifts the covers off its brand-new (and very loud) Starlet rally car

Petrolheads have long been deprived of gathering in large numbers since the Covid-19 pandemic hit a couple of years ago. There’s nothing quite like a good, old-fashioned rally to get the motorsport blood flowing.

Toyota took the opportunity to invite some of the members of the local community and media for the unveiling of its latest addition to the Gazoo Racing (formerly TRD) – the Starlet rally car – ahead of its participation at the (recently concluded) Cape Overberg Rally, on the fast and smooth roads in the area surrounding the town of Bredasdorp. This event is known for the high speeds that competitors achieve thanks to the flowing nature of the roads in the area, and has earned the moniker ‘The Overberg Grand Prix’ as a result.

The Rola Toyota dealership in Bredasdorp was a hive of activity as the event drew locals from all over the town to witness the unveiling, in what was a proud moment for the Japanese brand. Attendees could then get up close and personal with the left-hand-drive, European-specced Starlet and the engine was started up as well – much to the enjoyment of eardrums in the vicinity.

Former rally champion Guy Botterill said the Starlet has been in development for more than three years, while being assisted and working with companied and experts to get the car up to European (R5 and R4) standard. The new car features a 2-litre turbocharged petrol engine (3S-GTE), which drives all four wheels via a sequential gearbox. Other additions include a Motec engine control unit, along with Reiger dampers and Alcon brakes that take care of the suspension and stopping power.

A pocket rocket

Glenn Crompton, Vice-President for Marketing Communications at Toyota South Africa Motors, says: “The Starlet is a key model for us, and taking it rallying gives us the opportunity to market it to the dedicated rally enthusiasts of Southern Africa.”

Many enthusiasts can resonate with the Starlet because its an affordable model in the local line-up, as opposed to something more exclusive (and pricier) like the Supra, for example. There is always a sense of excitement when a car that is not know for going fast has been fettled with, and the results are brilliant.

Just like the 24 Hour of Le Mans or the Simola Hillclimb, the event only comes around once a year and when it does, petrolheads come from all over and enjoy themselves for the love of motorsport.

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