For a country which has a reputation for high technology, Japanese motor manufacturers are surprisingly conservative, particularly when it comes to producing competition cars. At the beginning of the rally season Nissan unveiled its first purpose-built rally car, the 240RS, which turned out to be extremely conventional with its front engine rear wheel drive lay-out, the only concession to current thinking being the adoption of turbocharging. Now Toyota has released details of its new Group B car, the Celica Turbo which again follows the same tried format as the Nissan 240RS. Not for them the current vogue for Kevlar materials, four-wheel drive plus out and out endurance type racing cars which exploit the FISA alphabetical groupings to the full.
There is little doubt that the people who are ultimately responsible for making the Celica Turbo work in rallying, the compact multi-national Cologne based team under former driver Ove Andersson, would have liked four-wheel drive. Andersson makes no bones about the fact that he feels four-wheel drive is a necessary factor for international successes. He in fact asked his Japanese masters to provide him with a four-wheel drive lay-out, but Japan insisted (as has so often happened in the past) that the car they rally into the mid-eighties should use as many production related components as possible. This makes life difficult for the ambitious team manager, but the argument in essence is the whole raison d’être for rallying — a fact which is becoming lost in the million pound budgets required for success in events at world level.
However, Andersson is nothing if not resourceful. Tantalisingly, he promises that the Group B Celica Turbo is only the first step towards something much more exciting, although he does add that Toyota Team Europe will have to use this particular specification model for at least the next two seasons.
The Celica Turbo was homologated into Group B in its basic form back in March, the 200 production run being quickly snapped up in Japan, but it is the 20-off evolution model which is the key to the team’s aspirations. All things being equal the evolution version should be accepted from next month.
In the meantime, TTE has carried out extensive testing in Greece and the Nürburgring race circuit. Much effort has been put into reducing turbocharger lag, the team having worked closely with Nippondenso to produce an electronically controlled fuel injection system. The engine itself is a 2,090 c.c. version of the familiar twin-cam two-valve per cylinder Toyota engine which has been the backbone of the company’s efforts with Celicas over the years. With a KKK turbocharger set at a maximum one bar boost, it now produces up to 340 b.h.p., but a more realistic figure for every day rallying is 326 b.h.p.
The problem for TTE is getting this power onto the road. In conjuction with Hewland they have developed a special five-speed gearbox for the evolution model, but apart from this novelty the Celica Turbo still has a well tried Salisbury rear axle held in place by coil springs and four-link system. With around 300 b.h.p. reaching the two rear driven wheels, Andersson is very aware of the tyre wear problems, and much time has been spent with Pirelli working on suitable compounds.
Taking into account FISA’s turbocharging 1.4 co-efficient, the Toyota’s engine capacity is technically raised to 2,926 c.c. which brings it into the 3-litre class which has a minimum weight limit of 960 kg. Currently, the Celica Turbo evolution car with its steel and glassfibre body weighs around 1,020 kg, but the team is sure that this can be gradually reduced.
The Celica turbo should make its competition debut on the Mille Piste Rally in France at the start of next month. It will be driven by long time Toyota supporter and former World Champion Björn Waldegård who has been responsible for much of the initial testing. Homologation permitting, the new car will then be scheduled to appear on the World Championship 1,000 Lakes, Ivory Coast and RAC rallies when Waldegård will be joined by fellow Swede Per Eklund. — M.R.G.