A world beater than the rest, but time never gave it a chance.
Ask those who are in the know of the WRC history and they all will tell you early 80s were probably the greatest times of the sport. Those were the times when immortal legends of some of the most glorious rally cars and racers were established, forever to be revered about. It was also the times when in early 80’s there were talks of bringing in a new category of rally cars to be called Group S or lovingly as ‘Rally Supercar’. Toyota used to field its Group B rally racer based on a rear wheel drive Celica back in the day. However, with proposed new regulation, the company decided to rule the new stage with what was internally called Toyota 222D.
This very special Toyota 222D was destined to take on the dramatic new range of competition that was to form the new stage. However, as the legend says, time conspired to never let it turn an angry wheel at any rally stage ever. A car that was supposed to bring the ‘super-rally’ competition on its knees was left to be confined in the dark alley of incomplete engineering dreams.
The engineering team at Toyota got the approval to start working on a Group S WRC competitor in 1984 with a completion deadline set for December 1985. The aim was simple, creating a Group S rally project that would be able to win the annual WRC championship and to further strengthen the makers reputation among the masses. The project was given a code name 222D and it was the birth of the Toyota 222D. The entire development work on the project was to be taken in house so as to streamline, accelerate and accumulate knowledge faster and efficiently. An all in-house effort would have also helped in keeping the secrecy of the project intact.
The engineers decided that in order to take on the new proposed rally stage Group S, the Toyota 222D had to be a mid-engined all-wheel drive monster instead of the existing rear wheel drive Group B rally car they had. The Toyota 222D also benefitted from the existence of the (then) just launched first generation Toyota MR2 sportscar that had a mid-engined 2 seater layout. Clearly, it was a perfect base to create the rally supercar Toyota 222D to be based on. The end of the search for an all wheel drive system arrived from the Celica GT-Four. Interestingly though, the ST165 Celica GT-Four was still a good two years away from its official market launch back in 1984.
The standard 1.6 liter engine from the MR2 was clearly too weak for the duty and the MR2 mule was modified to wear a new 2.0 liter turbocharged heart. Further rally modifications that came to the standard MR2 base were in the form of double wishbone front suspension, five-link independent rear suspension and manual transmission. The team had prepared the first prototype by February 1985 and it was made to go through rigorous testing phase at Japan and in Europe for next few months. After through testing, it was decided to add further rally upgrades to the first Toyota 222D prototype. These included improvements like a different engine placement, changes in suspension travel, tyre size, and a torque split mechanism. The torque split system was incorporated to let the Toyota 222D switch between two and four-wheel drive as per need.
The Toyota 222D Group S rally car project was running on time for its December 1985 deadline when just two months before the completion in September, FISA decided to scrap the proposed Group S citing safety issues. The main reason behind scrapping of the Group S class even before it begun were number of fatal crashes that hindered the whole of 1985 season. This resulted into not just the demise of the Group S (even before it raced for once) but also translated into introduction of new stricter Group A regulations. FISA desperately wanted to put a limit on performance that they believed will decrease the chance of accidents. Thus there was a strict and rigid push towards production car platforms.
The supposed Group S ‘Rally Supercar’ regulations were expected to have been in effect by 1987 season. This meant that by the time the scrapping of the Group S occurred, Toyota had already invested massive amount of money and resources in the Toyota 222D project which was already nearing its completion. However, with such drastic change in regulations it was evident that the team had to abandon the Toyota 222D project. Although, Toyota continued to race at WRC seasons of 1986 and 1987 with its Group B rear wheel drive rally Celica and Supra racers. Toyota also developed their new Group A racer during this period and during the fifth WRC event of 1988 season, the Toyota ST165 Celica GT-Four, made its world debut in the Tour de Corse.
As for the ill-fated Toyota 222D group S rally racer, it is said that only two prototypes of the car were ever build. One of them wearing a white paint was sent to the Toyota Mega Web showroom in Tokyo, Japan while the black one is parked at the Toyota Motorsport GmbH in Cologne, Germany.
Courtesy: Toyota Blog GB