Bill Wood’s – Some Things You Should Know: 11-0204

Here are some Things You Should Know today:


There’s word that Toyota is planning a return to the World Rally Championship and to Le Mans. Cars and programs are now under development at Toyota Motorsport in Germany. Toyota has won multiple WRC titles, but never the Le Mans 24-hour classic. Most Americans think of Toyota in ChampCar or NASCAR but Toyota won multiple driver and team championships in the 90s. The last manufacturer’s title came in 1999. The last driver’s titles came with Carlos Sainz, Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol in 1992, 1993 and 1994 respectively.

I’m told Toyota will go with the new-shape Yaris compact, while equipping it with a new 1.6- liter turbo engine to fit the new front-drive WRC formula. A run of these new fast 1.6 Yaris sports models will have to be built and homologated and, with luck, some might even find their way to the U.S. The new WRC program would have the appeal of pitting Toyota against Ford, Citroen, Mini and others in front-line rallying, which has a huge and long established following in Europe.

When it comes to Le Mans, Toyota has tried many times to win the endurance classic. This time around, the plan is to go back to the race with hybrid power. Cologne has already sketched out a prototype for Toyota’s new hybrid LM car and Toyota, it’s said, is now negotiating with the Le Mans organizers for a new hybrid class.

Peugeot will use a 3.7-liter V8 turbodiesel engine to power its new 908 Le Mans challenger. The confirmation came at the Peugeot launch in Paris. The company is a long proponent of hybrid technology but it’s decided to build a Le Mans engine using its tried and trusted diesel technology, according to the ACO’s performance equalizing regulations. The all-new 908, so named in reference to its ultra-successful forebear – the 908 Hdi FAP – also continues the coupe theme recently followed by Audi with its own new R18.

Senna, the documentary about Formula One Driver Ayrton Senna won the World Cinema Audience Award in the documentary category at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend. Senna, a three- time Formula One champion, is considered to be among the best in the history of F1. His life was cut short at age 34, when he was killed at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994, as his car darted off course and crashed into a wall at over 200 mph. A controversy ensued, questioning whether the accident was caused by driver error or faulty equipment. The narrative focuses on Senna’s rise in F1 during the 1980s, his rivalry with French driver Alain Prost and his struggles to deal with the politics of a prominent sport until his untimely death, which was captured on live television. Here’s a trailer:

The film, which was released in Japan and Brazil last year will be screened worldwide in 2011.

Former World Rally winning driver Michèle Mouton was appointed manager of the World Rally Championship on Thursday. As the FIA’s WRC manager she’ll be responsible for the ‘co- ordination of all aspects of the Championship’, including but not limited to safety, regulations and the calendar. Mouton was the first woman to win a round of the World Rally Championship and went on to win a total four WRC rallies in the 1980s. The Frenchwoman was also vice champion in the 1982 World Rally Championship, earning much respect not only for her driving, but also for her personality and passion. This is long but it’s Michele:

In 1984, she was the first woman to win the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb. She won again in 1985, breaking the record. Mouton effectively quit rallying after the Group B category was banned in late 1986, both unwilling to take part in a new, slower championship under Group A rules, and eager to start a family. However, she was to be a key figure in the organization of the rallying Race of Champions in 1988, in memory of Henri Toivonen. She also has taken part in the 1975 24 Hours of Le Mans, in an all-female team.

Scott Pruett is one of North America’s most successful race-car drivers, with multiple wins and championships in kart, Trans-Am and Grand-Am racing, as well as victories in IMSA and CART, plus starts in NASCAR. He drives the No. 01 Telmex Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Riley-BMW in Grand-Am’s Rolex Sports Car Series, where he is the defending Daytona Prototype champion. His win last weekend in the Rolex 24 at Daytona was his fourth overall victory and ninth category win. His 2011 duties also include work as one of AutoWeek’s Editors at Speed. This is his first column in that role.

Rally Sweden opens the WRC season next week. The snow and ice differentiate the event from the other 12 on the schedule. One of the things that make it possible for speed on the ice are the seven millimeter studs in the tires. That’s about .27 of an inch. The rooster tails of ice and snow thrown by the studs make beautiful images!

After Rally Sweden, the Ford Abu Dhabi team will test for five days on gravel in Portugal in preparation for Rally Mexico the first weekend in March. Jari-Matti Latvala will drive for the opening two days of the test with Mikko Hirvonen taking to the wheel for the final three days. In Sweden six other Ford Fiesta RS WRCs are entered including Monster World Rally Team’s Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino of the U.S.


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