Fri 28 Jul 2023

Toyota president Sato reaffirms commitment to WRC

Toyota Motor Corporation president Koji Sato reinforced the company’s strong commitment to the FIA World Rally Championship during a media roundtable at Rally Estonia.

Sato, who began his role as Toyota CEO and president earlier this year, spoke openly with attending media at the FIA World Rally Championship’s eighth round, which was won by GR-Yaris driving Finn Kalle Rovanperä.

The Japanese brand returned to WRC in 2017 and has since claimed three manufacturers’ world titles and four drivers’ world titles. Speaking to media in the Rally Estonia service park, Sato emphasised that Toyota’s commitment to WRC remains steadfast for the long-term.

“Our return to WRC was really initiated by our chairman, Akio Toyoda,” Sato explained. “Now I have succeeded as president and there is really no change in the axis of how we pursue WRC.

“It’s not only WRC, but in regard to motorsport and participation, this will remain as our axis and where we can gain ways to make ever-better cars. For Toyota, this will be the basis of where we can make ever-better cars, so that’s not going to change, especially if you take up WRC.

“We are battling natural elements and also it asks a lot of the team play that is required to negotiate that race. I think, with that in mind, it is a category that will remain our axis to continue on with development.”

For Toyota, the journey extends far beyond WRC alone as it looks to the future with a focus on developing vehicles that cater for all enthusiasts.

“As a whole, Toyota is moving forward towards finding the most appropriate and befit solutions for each different need of the different regions,” Sato continued. “For us, as a car manufacturer, it’s trying to provide these types of options to every single car-lover across the world, so we don’t leave anybody behind.

“What that means is that we are not dependant on any particular type of powertrain and we call this the multi-pathway. We will be looking into hydrogen, of course, EVs and e-fuels. We are looking at the energy requirements in each of the different regions and providing the mobility that befits that area.

“What’s common across all that thinking is that we want to be providing [cars that are] fun to drive, and that is what we strive for - to bring that fun to our customers,” he added.

Top 5 Moments - Rally Estonia 2023

Sato joined Toyota Motor Corporation in April 1992 and has climbed through various roles, including within engineering and operations departments, to reach his esteemed position today. Like chairman Toyoda, he shares an immense passion for automobiles.

“I am also a petrolhead as well, and I’d like to think that I’m more of a petrolhead than Akio!” he joked. “I’ve been involved in motorsports ever since I was a student, and I’ve been involved as an official at Fuji Speedway.

“I’ve been involved in the many facets of motorsport and many forms of engagement is what I’ve gone through. As a person, I think motorsport has given me a lot of encouragement and it’s given me a lot of energy, a lot of vitality.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing currently leads the manufacturers’ championship by 57 points from Hyundai Motorsport while Kalle Rovanperä holds a commanding 55-point lead in the drivers’ series.

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