Track day with Toyota’s pocket rocket

The hype is real with the first-ever Gazoo Racing Yaris. The much-anticipated Toyota pocket rocket traces its roots to the World Rally Championship (WRC) and Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda’s passion to develop the Toyota sports car. Toyota’s hot hatch boasts development seldom seen in a production vehicle. The GR Yaris was built first as a motorsports vehicle then developed as a road vehicle for those yearning for a pedigreed, yet relatively affordable, high-performance vehicle.

Engineered from the ground up to deliver adrenaline-fueled dynamic performance whether on tarmac or dirt, the ground-breaking rally-bred GR Yaris has a 261ps/370Nm 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and the signature GR-FOUR four-wheel drive. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission—no automatics here—and is powered by a G16E-GTS three-cylinder DOHC 4-valve roller rocker motor hailed as the most powerful three-cylinder engine in the world. The Philippine-spec GR Yaris comes with the High Performance/Circuit Package as standard.

The author with the Toyota Gazoo Racing family: the Vios Cup Autocross racecar, the Vios 1.5 GR-S, the GR Yaris, and the GR Supra

Last weekend, Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) hosted a Gazoo Racing Media Track Day in Clark International Speedway in Pampanga, giving some members of the media the chance to wring out the GR Yaris. There were three segments during the track day. The first track exercise was the threshold braking wherein participants tested the GR Yaris’ maximum braking—but without invoking the ABS.

The second exercise was the slalom, which tested the steering responsiveness of the car around a specially designed slalom course. I was extremely impressed with the handling of the hot hatch as it was incredibly nimble darting around the cones. The stability, low center of gravity, and sheer traction of the car was absolutely stunning.

The rear view of Toyota’s sensational GR Yaris shows off the car’s wide fender flares

Last but certainly not least, we took the GR Yaris on a hot lap around the entire circuit of the Clark International Speedway. I have to say that this was the most thrilling experience I’ve ever had in a hatchback. I’m not a racecar driver but I was able to maximize the GR Yaris and the track to its limits with the help and coaching of multiple racing champion JP Tuason of Tuason Racing School. The most impressive fact about the GR Yaris is that even if I pushed the car to its limits, it still had so much stability and control, giving even a relatively inexperienced driver like me supreme confidence in pushing it to its limits with each new lap.

Bristling with motorsports-developed muscle, the exterior of the GR Yaris contributes not just to its looks but also to its performance. From the carbon fiber roof to the 18-inch BBS forged alloy wheels, the GR Yaris is made light yet strong while projecting a true racecar look. Night driving—and daytime style—is abetted by handsome three-tier LED headlamps with daytime running lights and the striking LED rear combination lamps.

Two GR Supras and two GR Yaris

Inside the cozy yet quick-ingress/egress cabin (with smart entry and push-start system), you get a race-ready feel with the suede and synthetic leather seats. There are multiple drive modes available (Normal, Sport, and Track); obviously we were on the latter setting at Clark. Infotainment is via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Lots of speed needs lots of safety. The GR Yaris is equipped with the suite of driver-assist technologies under the comprehensive Toyota Safety Sense (Pre-Collision System, Automatic High Beam, Lane Trace Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control), all of which aids the driver in identifying and eliminating factors that may cause accidents. A standard for Toyota vehicles, the GR Yaris also comes with six airbags, ABS, Vehicle Stability Control, and Hill Start Assist. Its superb front and rear Torsen limited slip differential provides increased traction and improved stability.

The beauty of the GR Yaris is that its strengths and capabilities on the racetrack don’t restrict it from being used as a daily driver.

The GR Yaris retails for P2,650,000 and comes in three colors: Super White II, Emotional Red, and Precious Black. It will be available in Toyota’s 16 GR Performance dealers nationwide starting August 14.

Having driven the Toyota GR Yaris, it’s almost impossible not to want one.

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