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Toyota's global president Akio Toyoda has jetted to Australia to participate in the final stages of a 72-day driving and training project that will play an important role in helping the world's leading carmaker develop future generations of its vehicles for the world.

Mr Toyoda contributed directly to the project, which covered more than 20,000km around Australia, by driving a specially prepared Toyota 86 rally car on the challenging roads near Coffs Harbour.

He also demonstrated the car's prowess in local conditions in front of hundreds of Australian employees and dealers in Melbourne at a special ceremony to mark the end of the 10-week project.

The one-off rally car, dubbed the Toyota GR86X, was produced through a collaboration between four-time World Rally Championship (WRC) title-holder Tommi Mäkinen, who is one of the most successful WRC drivers of all time, and Toyota Motor Corporation's grassroots motorsport division GAZOO Racing.

Mr Toyoda linked the Coffs Harbour drive, on the Wedding Bells state forest rally stage, with his frequent participation in the tough Nürburgring 24-hour race in Germany and his passion to develop cars that are fun to drive.

"This challenge helps me deeply with my car-making intuition," Mr Toyoda said.

"I believe that because we have passionate and committed people wanting to develop better cars, Toyota will be able to continuously develop cars that move and touch customers' hearts."

Mr Toyoda said the project in Australia had provided an invaluable learning experience, enabling employees and executives involved in global development of Toyota vehicles to refine their skills so they can create ever-better cars.

"It was a perfect testing ground as Australian roads represent 80 per cent of the world's driving conditions," he said.

"Throughout the entire project, each and every member of the team was able to learn new things from listening to the cars and roads.

"In fact, after driving on so many roads, our team members' expectations for future test-car courses will never be the same because of all the stark realities that they experienced."

Mr Toyoda said these included being forced to change five tyres on a single day, driving over severely corrugated surfaces, and even having to change the planned route due to bushfires.

"Touring Australia reminded us that cars are vital partners in our lives. Any breakdown in the outback has the potential to be fatal.

"I am confident that our engineers will use the knowledge they have gained on this drive to create ever-better cars for customers. We can't wait to share these new cars with you, and the lessons we have learned, in the near future."

The unique Toyota GR86X rally car features a roll cage, all-wheel drive, sequential gearbox and turbo-charged engine fitted with an anti-lag system.

Mäkinen, a personal friend of Mr Toyoda, drew on his experience to provide feedback on the car and acted as his co-driver for the rally stage.

The rally champion said the roads that form the Wedding Bells stage make for "a fast and challenging stage".

"The 86 is a fun machine and, even in factory standard form, is great fun to drive because it is compact, lightweight with a low centre of gravity, direct steering and an engaging driving position," he said.


For more information, please contact:
Stephen Coughlan
Product Public Relations Manager
Tel: (02) 9710-3059
Mob: (0434) 442 261

Mike Breen
Manager Public Relations
Tel: (02) 9710 3341
Mob: (0418) 447 064

Beck Angel
Media and External Affairs Manager,
Tel: (03) 9647-4250
Mob: (0421) 271 279

Akio Toyoda demonstrates the one-off Toyota 86 rally car.
Toyota Australia chairman Max Yasuda and TMCA executive director, Corporate Services, Mike Rausa wave chequered flags to end the 20,000km drive around Australia.
Akio Toyoda discusses driving style with rally legend Tommi Mäkinen.
Akio Toyoda addresses Toyota Australia employees.