Yaris is released in junior-ranking rally guise. However, its character stems largely from the road car’s talent

What is it?

This is the Toyota GR Yaris of dreams. It’s a stripped-out version of the hot hatch, with rally-spec suspension, gravel or dirt tyres and some driveline tweaks. However, it’s very accessible.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing Iberian Cup, a joint venture of Toyota Spain, Madrid’s Motor and Sport Institute, (MSi), and Caetano Portugal, Portugal’s long-standing Toyota importer, is the Toyota Gazoo Racing Iberian Cup. The championship will be a single-make event with nine gravel rallies spread across the Iberian peninsula. It is expected to cost around 65,000 Euros before taxes. Already confirmed are the 2023 and ’24 seasons.

MSi was responsible for the development of the car. The road-legal GR Yaris has seen some changes (shell-seats and roll-cage, fire retardant, stripped-bare interior) but there have been some other clandestine modifications. The regular GR Yaris uses Torsen differentials on each axle, but the Cup car uses plated LSD from Cusco, a Japanese third party, and the clutch has been reinforced. While the regular GR Yaris uses Torsen differentials for both axles, this car has a plated mechanical limited slip differential from Cusco. The clutch is also reinforced. Although the suspension layout is unchanged, it can now be controlled remotely by Technoshock coilovers.

We also noticed extra bracing between front struts. Also, we noticed fancy drop-links. The brakes appear to be shared with road cars and must fit snugly in the rally car’s 15in dirt-spec tires (the asphalt ones are larger). Michelin made the high-profile tyres.

Sump guards, a roof intake, stronger headlights, and an exhaust with a higher power output are all available. This retains the catalyser, but produces more of the hollow, WRC-lite yowl from the GR Yaris’s unaltered turbo three pot, which is quite nice. Carbonfibre door mirrors, front wings made of aluminium (presumably to be bent back into shape), and red mudflaps that give off Tommi Makinen vibes.

We borrowed the MSi development driver, Pepe Lopez, who is also a double Spanish rally champion, and had a quick dirt track to practice at the part-test track and part-mountain escape of current Dakar champion Nasser al-Attiyah.

It’s what?

The role reversal of the Cup and road GR Yaris is quite curious. It is difficult to get into the latter because you have to wrap yourself around the contours of Atech buckets or the roll cage. Once inside, however, the rally car fixes the greatest flaw of the road car, its high driving position. The showroom Yaris places you so high that your rear-view mirror can interfere with your viewline on a good road; the Cup puts you right on the floorpan in a touring-car style.

It’s easy to get going: the clutch and very simple, finger-tippy steering make it easy. Visibility is good and the clutch is light. Although there isn’t much steering lock, you will soon see that the car doesn’t really need it. The regular car’s rev matching function can be engaged for the six speed gearbox. There’s no other thing to do, so you don’t have to worry about it.

This is an absolute joy. The Iberian Cup car is incredibly agile on dusty surfaces and feels very raw and light. Although the engine remains factory-spec, 257bhp is more than enough to propel you forward with just the right amount of wheel-slip and crampons-on acceleration.

The corners are next. Cusco diffs are very tightly wound. The chassis responds to throttle openings with sharp, but easily controlled oversteer. Only once is the handbrake required on this rally-tots circuit at the tightest hairpin. It is also evident that novices can quickly swing into third-gear corners with a true Scandinavian flick, and then exit in a whirlwind full of dust and the sound of stones smashing against the bodyshell. The yellow steering-wheel marker will be visible at 12 o’clock after lap 3. This is the end of fleeting, transitory moments when lock is applied instinctively to each side.

It’s a joy to find the right balance between stability and adjustability. The tyres provide a surprising amount of grip, but you can choose to increase or decrease it via the throttle pedal. The car’s suspension travel is less and the weight is lower. This allows it to glide along the ground, landing the one-time jump (taken slightly sideways) almost effortlessly. This is everything you would expect from a junior rally fighter, although you might get the same thrill from driving an Impreza Turbo around in an empty field.

Do I need one?

Then it’s over. I need an Iberian Cup GR Yaris. This is what makes it difficult to enjoy one outside of competition. The eminent road-car could learn a lot from its cousin. A little lighter body and longer springs might make it more enjoyable on a typical British B-road.