As Project Man­ager in Toy­ota Europe’s Z Di­vi­sion, Stijn Peeters led the R&D on the Yaris GRMN In­ter­view by Adam Towler

What couldn’t you change that you wanted to, and why?

This plat­form (the Yaris) was never de­vel­oped with per­for­mance cars in mind back in 2011. What many peo­ple don’t re­alise is that the plat­form dic­tates things like seat­ing po­si­tion, but also where the steer­ing wheel po­si­tion can be, wheel size and sus­pen­sion. The steer­ing rack ra­tio is also lim­ited by the plat­form and to change it would mean a com­pletely new devel­op­ment. If we low­ered the seat any more the door crash struc­ture would no longer be valid – even on cars of lim­ited num­bers we still have to meet that test, and to re-do that in two years is im­pos­si­ble.

Will these con­sid­er­a­tions go into fu­ture plat­forms?

Clearly there’s a re­quire­ment to bring more pas­sion to all our cars, not just the sports ones, and emo­tion when driv­ing is con­nected to driver con­trols. I would like to change things more but was re­stricted on this car. But this is all a learn­ing process for fu­ture [Gazoo] mod­els, a grow­ing process. With re­gard to be­spoke body­work, if it’s con­sid­ered at the plan­ning stage, then yes. We’re look­ing into that. Changes later are doubt­ful. For these sort of vol­umes it does not make sense – there is no busi­ness case in the world for that.

Is this car an in­di­ca­tion of the Gazoo Rac­ing phi­los­o­phy?

Yes. Sure, num­bers are al­ways im­por­tant. It was clear from the be­gin­ning it would need over 200bhp, but I could have made it 225bhp. But we think use­ful power, and fun to drive, and re­sponse, these are far more use­ful tar­gets than num­bers. We know to­day ev­ery­one is below seven sec­onds to 100kmph. But again, we had to de­cide on gear ra­tios. In the B seg­ment the first four gears have to be spot-on. So I chose the ra­tios that suited driv­ing, sac­ri­fic­ing the 0-100kmph time be­cause the car won’t do it in sec­ond gear. Maybe this is an old school way, how cars were de­vel­oped 15 years ago. If we had to give up on styling changes then so be it – the Yaris GRMN is all about bal­ance and use­able per­for­mance.

If you had a DSG ’box avail­able, would you fit it?

[Laughs]. Now that re­ally is a tricky ques­tion. The en­gi­neer in me says it de­pends how the sys­tem per­forms. The mo­tor­sport fan in me says I might gain some sec­onds on the track, but it will eat away at my in­puts – good or bad, but they’re my in­puts.

The project man­ager in me says they’ll add com­plex­ity and the man­ual works well, so given the time­frame… As long as the sys­tems can’t read my mind and adapt to my mood, then I’d pre­fer a man­ual.

What is the fu­ture of hot hatches such as the Yaris GRMN?

I can only speak per­son­ally, not on be­half of Toy­ota. I think we’re head­ing for an in­ter­est­ing fu­ture. Au­ton­o­mous tech, elec­tri­fi­ca­tion… But we al­ways see po­lar­is­ing move­ments: the more we go to­wards au­ton­o­mous driv­ing, the more in­di­vid­u­al­i­sa­tion will be brought out for cer­tain prod­ucts. There will be a place for en­thu­si­asts, but what it will look like is a ques­tion we all have, and there’s no sin­gle an­swer avail­able.

What would you buy as your own car?

I think I’d buy a Mk3 Toy­ota MR2. That had a lot of the qual­i­ties in the Yaris GRMN – use­able per­for­mance, bal­ance. Money no ob­ject I’d buy a Cay­man GT4. I’d rather that than a GT3, in fact. But re­ally I am a biker – for many years. I have a Tri­umph 955 that I do track­days with. It has taken me a year to learn how to ride that bike fast on a track, but that’s the re­ward.

For me that’s what it’s like with driv­ing for fun: it’s the driver that makes the dif­fer­ence, it’s your in­puts that go into the car and you want to feel the re­sponse, just like with a mo­tor­cy­cle. ⌧

It's the driver that makes the dif­fer­ence, it's your in­puts that go into the car

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