Toyota is returning to World Championship Rallying after a 17-year break.

President and chief executive Akio Toyoda announced at the Paris show the company had been preparing and training in Finland for the past few months with four times WRC champion Tommi Makkinen. The car it will race is the French built Yaris.

Racing fan Toyoda said: “One thing for certain is that I do want to win. Racing is also an opportunity for us to make better cars in terms of performance and handling. If a car is not fun to drive then what’s the point?”

Major sponsor for the WRC team will be Microsoft, described by Toyoda as a “very important, long standing partner”. The carmaker and the the tech giant have worked together for a number of years on cloud based telematics and connectivity. Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadelli said: “People now expect cars to have computing power to match the horsepower.”

Toyoda added the WRC would also serve as a test bed for future technologies alongside Toyota’s new research institute which is developing autonomous drive and robotics aimed at making cars safer with the ultimate aim of eliminating fatalities.

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