Craig might've sold his GR Yaris, but it went out in style, with a track day at Croft circuit with Mission Motorsport
If you’re coming here after reading volume one of the Hot Hatch War then you’ll already know that I’ve sold the Yaris, and given the gushing report I penned last time around that might come as quite the shock. You’ll have to read volume one of the hot hatch war to read my full justification for the sale, but the gist is simple - it came down to money and the nagging concern that in order to make the GR come alive, my license wouldn’t survive.
But before the car hit the forecourt, I managed to indulge in a track day, hosted by the magnificent Mission Motorsport at Croft. It was an invitation-only event, put on for beneficiaries of the charity and an eclectic mix of cars was in attendance giving passenger rides to ex-servicemen and women. Despite some truly exotic cars in the paddock, the Yaris had already pulled a crowd of inquisitive marshalls before I’d walked over to the drivers’ briefing. It was the peak of Yaris fever and throughout the day several Porsche 911 RS and GT3 owners approached me to discuss the car, revealing they had one on order. The less knowledgeable guests showed little interest initially, but word quickly spread about the little Toyota that could.
It was my first time at Croft and when such occasions occur, I’m always keen to get tuition as early as possible to get maximum enjoyment from the day. Expert drivers were on hand, but that would’ve taken away charity seat time, and given all car owners had only made a small donation in order to participate, honing my driving skills would’ve been selfish. I gleaned what I could from the sighting laps and awaited my first victim. Encouragingly, the day was supremely well run - pitlane traffic was managed impeccably and there was plenty of space on the track. At this point, I’d like to say a huge thanks to all the organisers and marshalls, who gave up a glorious Indian Summer’s day voluntarily.
Throughout the morning my confidence increased, and I quickly shook the bad habit of driving the car like a fwd hot hatch. The pace of the Yaris continually surprised me and my guests. I never attach ego to track day speed, but the fact the only car to overtake me all day was a fully prepared Time Attack TT RS running sub 1:30’s was a great indicator of the ability of the GR. In fact, a couple of those Motorsport 911s were taken as scalps. What impressed me most about the car were the brakes, which simply refused to wilt, no matter how much I increasingly abused them. At track speeds there was also a tangible difference between the centre differential settings - sport mode offered some cheeky post apex fun, with Track mode proving to be significantly faster as the front diff neutralised any desires by the chassis to push wide.
There was no hiding the rally/road bias roll of the car through the chicane, however, on the flip side, the supple suspension allowed the throttle to stay pinned over and long after the notorious back straight bump, and to nibble away at the kerbstones through Complex. My nemesis corner proved to be Tower bend where I just couldn’t get the front axle turned in with enough aggression, suffering from understeer. Some trail braking would’ve helped for sure, but I didn’t think my passengers would have appreciated such antics! Through the Jim Clark Esses, the car was imperious, with a fractional lift required before entry, then powering through and just kissing the redline in 4th gear as Barcroft loomed in fast forwards. Sunny In, Sunny Out carried a noise restriction so the organisers asked us to mind our output. Not a problem for the anonymous three-pot engine - the squealing tyres, less so.
The Yaris might not be a strict track car given its setup, but the motorsport DNA shines through in its ability to handle the demands of constant punishment. Between sessions, the MyT app allowed me to analyze performance, with one particular outing lasting well over 15 minutes. The fun restrictors were the PS4S tyres, which were admittedly fantastic, however until Michelin invents a compound with everlasting gobstopper properties you’ll need to manage them closely. The MyT app isn’t extensive enough to give full data or record lap times, but it did provide an average speed per session - which was obviously skewed by including warm-up and cool-down circuits. A true track addict will want to tighten up the body roll and suspension, happily despite this, not a single passenger replaced the beloved new car smell with a regurgitation of that morning's breakfast.
Sadly due to occurring during the Covid epidemic, it wasn’t possible to perform any photography. I hope the pictures shown here taken by Ben Midlane will act as a suitable substitute, with the Yaris ripping across the West Pennine Moors and tackling a slippy, nuggety forest ‘stage’. In other words, its natural habitat. I hope the next custodian of this car enjoys it as much as I did and doesn’t simply tuck it away, hoping to speculate on it. That would be a huge shame.