The annual SEMA aftermarket show in Las Vegas has always put a premium on performance, but there’s a subtle shift to small cars, this year, as Toyota underscores with the Yaris B-Spec Club Racer it’s introducing amidst an array of customized pickups and SUVs.
The Japanese maker plans to start campaigning the hot hatch in the months ahead with Jamie Bestwick, a force to be reckoned with on the BMX circuit leading the charge.
Toyota officials admit they need to inject a little “emotion” into the brand if it’s to recover from a series of recent setbacks, so that means not only bolder styles and better dynamics in production vehicles like the new Camry but also a more prominent presence in various race circuits. In particular, Toyota seems to be targeting some of the more youthful series, such as the Baja 1000 — where Andy Bell will be driving a customized Tacoma pickup also unveiled at the SEMA show – as well as the new B-Spec series.
“It looks awesome,” Bestwick said of the Yaris. “I’ve got 50 pics of it myself, which I keep tweeting.”
The track-ready hatchback was customized by SportsCar Magazine and features a stripped-to-the-bare-metal interior with custom racing seat and SCCA circuit-sanctioned roll cage, as well as a fire suppression system.
Cusco’s Zero-3 suspension should help enhance the Yaris’ grip, along with the 15-inch Enkei wheels and Hoosier racing tires.
SportsCar Magazine has given a boost to the base 1.5-liter engine with an updated management system, a cat-back exhaust and other tricks.
Seven-time X Games champion Bestwick aiming to compete in the 2012 SCCA National Championship Runoffs, held at the famed Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
Unlike some of the other compact and subcompact race cars on display at SEMA – such as Ford’s new Focus ST-R, Toyota officials say they have no plans to offer customers a B-Spec Yaris. But considering the growing interest in reasonably affordable, turnkey cars they just might re-think that strategy, especially if Bestwick scores another victory at Road America.
(Ford will offer affordable, turnkey racer, the Focus ST-R, to pros, amateurs and track day enthusiasts. Click Here for more.)