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  Home > Teams > Current WRC teams > Toyota > Toyota Team Europe
Toyota Team Europe
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Ove Andersson started the co-operation with Toyota in 1972, unaware that the fledgling rally team would come to a brink next year when oil crisis struck. He managed to get required funding from certain national Toyota importers, a magnificient feat in itself and team lived on, albeit just. From the start, TTE was one of the first - if not the first - contracted teams to run competition in behalf of the manufacturer, a practice that has become popular only later. Initially the operation was based around a car or two and some spares left from Toyota's 1970 entry in RAC rally and early years were very lean indeed, obviously not helped by the oil crisis. But as if sensing that there was gold to be found, Ove persisted and found the funding for the fledgling team. And hit jack-pot when Hannu Mikkola conquered 1000 Lakes Rally in small 1600cc Toyota Corolla in 1975. It was the same year that team's name was officially changed to Toyota Team Europe and it moved from Swedish farm-house to a proper workshop at Brussels, Belgium.

From the start, Toyota insisted that team use Celica, a sports car that they felt in need of such marketing, while team would have preferred smaller Corolla. So it was that throughout the years, various versions of Celica were produced, some more competitive than others but none really top-line rally cars. Toyota face-lifted the bodywork often but underneath the mechanical parts remained quite similar. Team's programme was varied as much as the car. Early on, lack of funds made signing drivers difficult and lack of speed from the car made results below average. Then there were the homologation problems with 16-valve engines of late 1970's which afflicted most manufacturers. In 1979 team moved to a new headquarters at Cologne, West Germany where team remains today (as much it is the same team anymore).

Little by little, team progressed and in 1982 team scored their second win when Bjorn Waldegard won in New Zealand, somewhat surprisingly. As technical rules changed and Group B was introduced, a new era dawned to Toyota too. Company was unwilling to build a special model with four-wheel drive to be used as base for a competition car so TTE had to continue use the RWD Celica. Armed with freedoms allowed under the Group B regulations, team designed their best rally car so far and in 1983 the Celica Twincam Turbo was born. It had only two powered wheels but it was rugged and very powerful. Though uncompetitive in sprint rallies in Europe, team still entered it in events like 1000 Lakes or RAC but the real success came in African marathons. There car really hit gold, winning both three times (Safari from 1984 to 1986 and Ivory Coast in 1983, 1985 and 1986).

Group B came to an premature end and TTE was left without a car to compete with and hastily, Supra was pressed into action as a stop-gap measure. Despite the apparent problems of having no competitive car, the end of Group B was to be a blessing for TTE. Toyota had finally given in and was ready to produce a 4WD car and on top of that, the new purpose-built facilities at Cologne were ready for 1987. Team was stuck with Supra until the Celica GT-4 (ST165) was ready in 1988. Early on things were difficult despite return of Kankkunen to spearhead the assault. Only when Juha had already decided to leave the team did the first win come in 1989 Australia. Toyota began pushing mighty Lancia further than the Italians had gotten accustomed to and championships, both personal and manufacturers, soon followed with drivers like Sainz, Kankkunen and Auriol.

Celica evolved into ST185 and the final, infamous ST205 forms. Competition did not get thinner, despite withdrawal of Lancia as more Japanese manufacturers had followed into WRC and Toyota was faced with fierce rivalry from Subaru and Mitsubishi, who both were fielding smaller and faster cars by mid-1990's. Toyota still insisted that TTE had to use the big Celica and despite team's vast resources, competitors were getting ahead and what followed was to be the biggest scandal of the sport. According to Dilbert, there is an engineering solution to every problem and in TTE's case the solution to make Celica competitive again was use of ingenious but illegal turbo restrictor device. It was soon found out and official Toyota entries were banned for 1996. Many thought that this would be end of WRC for Toyota, Japanese could not take such loss of face.

Against all odds, Ove Andersson managed not only convince Toyota to continue in WRC but also got permission to use Corolla as a base car for a first time since the 1970's. That was likely helped with World Rally Car regulations introduced for 1997, as Toyota was not required to produce a specialized base car and so Corolla WRC was born. With Carlos Sainz making a return to the team, all looked good again but despite winning 1999 manufacturers title, the return did leave a bit sour taste. Wins were rare and then came the shock news.

It had been rumored for some time that Toyota would enter Formula One but it was hoped that rallying could remain in some form in company's sporting portfolio. That was not to be, Toyota withdrew though Corolla WRCs were used by privateers to a good effect several years after that.

TTE at 1993 Safari
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At the height of it's power, TTE was a formidable team. This is team's 1993 Safari lineup, l-to-r: Piironen-Kankkunen-Kivimaki-Alen-Munro-Duncan-Vinayak-Iwase with Andersson and Short in the back. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window
TTE workshop in 1997
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From humble beginnings, TTE expanded to a world-class team with world-class facilities. This is TTE workshop in 1997. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window