Toyota Engineers share love of Rally with R&D Executives

HOUGHTON, Mich. (October 24, 2017) – When Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) R&D Executive Vice President Shinichi Yasui learned that a group of engineers, technicians and other Toyota team members compete in Rally America competitions, he was intrigued. When he found out they were racing in a Corolla iM, for which he had been chief engineer, he decided this was something he needed to see for himself. So, he and two other R&D executives accompanied the Toyota R&D Rally Team to the Lake Superior Performance Rally (LSPR) in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula last weekend. The Rally America event, which takes place among the woods and wildflowers along U.S. 41, is among the most challenging events on the rally schedule.

EVP Yasui, Body Design Vice President Dave Sawin and Executive Project Manager Dave Baxter came up to support the team and learn about the sport. They also ended up get some hands-on rally experience, including hot laps as co-drivers, time behind the wheel and getting their hands dirty by helping during a service stop for the iM.

 “Talking with the team about how they’d adapted iM for stage rally was very exciting, as was having the opportunity to drive the modified version of the car I’d spent so much time developing,” said Yasui. “Seeing iM racing competitively against so many impressive cars and being a part of their team for the day,” continued Yasui, “gave me deeper appreciation of their dedication to not only racing, but engineering and problem solving as well.”

Body Design VP Sawin echoed Yasui’s sentiments: “Whether it is their rally cars or the cars they’re developing in Michigan for North American and global markets, these engineers are truly committed to achieving a top product.”

Committed as they were, the stages of LSPR proved a bit more challenging for the team this season. A tricky surface on stage three retired the Ravenscroft/Steinkamp All-Trac to the trailer. After finishing Day One just over ten seconds behind Ryan Millen’s Toyota Motorsports Rav4, the iM, piloted by Alex Ribner and Brad Legris, had an engine problem surface not long after dark that proved too complicated to fix in the field. While disappointed that neither team was able to complete the rally, the team is far from square one.

“We’re all frustrated that we didn’t get the results we wanted this time” said driver Colin Ravenscroft “but we learned a lot. We got some great support and feedback from our executives, especially from EVP Yasui regarding the iM. Looking down the line, we’re excited to get the improvements made and be ready to go make some noise at the start of next season. The waiting is the hardest part.”

LSPR was the final event of the 2017 season, but the downtime won’t last long. The TMNA Rally Team is planning to kick-off the 2018 season at Missouri’s Rally in the 100 Acre Wood in February, 2018.

Toyota (NYSE:TM), the world's top automaker and creator of the Prius and the Mirai fuel cell vehicle, is committed to building vehicles for the way people live through our Toyota and Lexus brands.  Over the past 60 years, we’ve built more than 30 million cars and trucks in North America, where we operate 14 manufacturing plants (10 in the U.S.) and directly employ more than 44,000 people (more than 34,000 in the U.S.).  Our 1,800 North American dealerships (1,500 in the U.S.) sold more than 2.8 million cars and trucks (nearly 2.5 million in the U.S.) in 2015 – and about 80 percent of all Toyota vehicles sold over the past 20 years are still on the road today.  
Toyota partners with philanthropic organizations across the country, with a focus on education, safety and the environment.  As part of this commitment, we share the company’s extensive know-how garnered from building great cars and trucks to help community organizations and other nonprofits expand their ability to do good. For more information about Toyota, visit

Brian Watkins
(734) 219-8015
[email protected]


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TMNA R&D Rally Team LSPR 01

The Toyota R&D Rally Team’s ’91 Celica All-Trac slides around a spectator corner during the Lake Superior Performance Rally.

TMNA R&D Rally Team LSPR 02

The Toyota iM makes its was down Stage 3 of the Lake Superior Performance Rally.

TMNA R&D Rally Team LSPR 03

Toyota R&D EVP Shinichi Yasu, Body Design Vice President Devid Sawin and Toyota Motorsports rally driver Ryan Millen discuss Millen’s Rav4 during LSPR Parc Expose.

TMNA R&D Rally Team LSPR 04

Toyota R&D EVP Shinichi Yasui gets ready to try his hand at co-driving during the test stage of the Lake Superior Performance Rally.

TMNA R&D Rally Team LSPR 05

Toyota R&D EVP Shinichi Yasui poses with the rally-ready version of the Corolla iM. Yasui was previously chief engineer for iM.

TMNA R&D Rally Team LSPR 06

Toyota R&D EVP Shinichi Yasu taking the Corolla iM he engineered for a run on the practice stage at the Lake Superior Performance Rally.

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