Having successfully competed in the World Rally Championship since 1987, Toyota decided that 1999 would be its final campaign, as it focused its resources on creating a Formula 1 team from scratch for an entry in 2001.
This meant that the Toyota Corolla WRC enjoyed just two full seasons in the hands of Carlos Sainz and Didier Auriol, cruelly losing factory support as soon as it had beaten the Subaru Imprezas of Richard Burns and Juha Kankkunen to the title. At least Autocar was able to bid it farewell in the best way possible, becoming the only publication allowed to unleash the bug-eyed hatchback for themselves.
We said: “The first time we experienced what the Corolla could do under full throttle in any of the first five gears with the anti-lag engaged is not something we’re likely to forget in a hurry. Nor was it possible to properly fathom how well balanced the car felt when it was being flung through corners. And then there’s the gearbox, so precise yet so light and delicate. “Toyota’s foray into F1 will need to be something very special indeed.”
And special indeed it was – only in its unparalleled ability to waste enormous sums for minimal return.