Toyota’s new Starlet rally car is purpose-built and features a special 1990s ingredient

• Earlier in May, the Starlet rally car was unveiled at the Rola Toyota dealership in Bredasdorp.
• It is powered by a 2.0 liter turbocharged engine, also known as 3S-GTE.
• The model was built and developed locally and complies with all safety standards specified by the FIA.

If you’re talking about the most successful automaker in South Africa, look no further than Toyota. Their local line-up pretty much sells itself; Then you have the plethora of Gazoo Racing performance options on offer. With the introduction of the Starlet, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA now competes in three different racing categories with locally built examples, such as the Corolla in Global Touring Cars (GTC), the Starlet in the NRC and the Dakar-winning Hilux, which also competed in the South African Rally Raid Championship (SARRC).

starlet rally car

After the car was happily revealed, former multiple South African National Rally Champion Guy Botterill said the Starlet rally car has been in development for more than three years, and even still, this n is not the finished product. The model was built locally and complied with all the stringent safety standards specified by the FIA.

Not your ordinary starlet

The Starlet was first launched locally in 2020 and fit the bill as the current test subject – previous rally models (think Serge Damseaux) included the Conquest, Etios and RunX, all of which competed in rally Bredasdorp. What better way to promote an essential model from the local range than with its own reinforced version.

starlet, rally

starlet rally car

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According to Motorsport South Africa, a rally car must comply with regulations which usually involve modifying the vehicle with safety components such as a roll bar, special seats, harnesses and fire extinguishers. You can either buy a vehicle like this used and prep it yourself, or have a prep company modify a standard road car on your behalf. Additionally, rally cars must use the public road to move between stages. The car will also need to be registered under the National Road Traffic Act.

Compared to the road-going Starlet, the rally version saw a host of significant changes inside, out and under the hood. We take a look at some of them:


The normal Starlet has a 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with variable valve timing (VVT) and a low-flow intake manifold. The claimed power is 68 kW and 130 Nm.

In its place in the rally car is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, better known as the 3S-GTE, which is a popular high-performance engine most often replaced by an older Corolla chassis (in box shape). The original power varies from 136 kW to 191 kW. This engine was a favorite of popular Toyota models of yesteryear.

starlet, rally

starlet rally car


The LED headlights and daytime running lights are kept intact, but everything else has been improved. In addition to the red and white livery, the exterior is fitted with a widebody kit and sits on white-painted, rally-spec wheels. The OEM taillights are retained and the exhaust was positioned centrally, so a completely new exhaust tunnel under the car had to be built.


Everything inside is completely stripped. The factory dash, door panels and seats were all tossed out in favor of proper racing gear. In addition, the driver’s seat is positioned on the left side, as is the case with most European R5 and R4 rally cars, and is kept secure by the installation of a roll bar, d a spare wheel and a fire extinguisher. The handbrake and sequential shifter selector are long-throw, while a Motec engine control unit is used to manage all the electronics.

Toyota has also launched a new version of its Starlet passenger car, with prices starting at R226,600, while Suzuki will also launch its new Baleno later in May.

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