Spends these months Auto Motor Klassiek attention to Toyota's rally history. In a diptych we describe the roots, origins and backgrounds of the contemporary competition success of the largest manufacturer in the world. A success story that started in Belgium. Its history is full of background stories. That is why we also share a few special events from that history with you online. Today we look back on the forgotten WRC victory of the Canadians Walter Boyce and Doug Woods, all-powerful winners of the Press-On-Regardless in 1973. They never drove for a European-led rally team, but with their victory they played the ambitious Andersson Motorsport in the map.
The rally on the other side of the Atlantic was for many years a fixture within the WRC program, which replaced the International Championship for Manufacturers in 1973. Most rallies within these championships took place in Europe. Rallying enjoyed prestige, but was not yet so big for constructors, manufacturers and private teams that people traveled all over the world for rallying. It was one of the reasons that the Press-On-Regardless had a strongly North American tinted field of participants.
Herald for Toyota's first WRC victory
Walter Boyce and Doug Woods were one of the 57 teams to drive the 1973 North American rally around Michigan. It was held from October 31 to November 4 of that year, and the organization had previously included 85 special stages in the race. Boyce and Woods had known each other for some time, and drove some North American rallies together in previous years. Initially this happened with a Datsun 1600 SSS, but in 1971 they switched to the Toyota Corolla Coupé, of course in modified form. The Canadian duo achieved quite some success, especially in 1973 and 1974. Not infrequently the drivers found themselves on the top step of the podium. The build-up to the 1973 Press-On-Regardless was a precursor to Toyota's first WRC win.
Build it yourself
It was Toyota Canada that made a Toyota Corolla SR5 (TE27 for North America) available. Walter Boyce, Doug Woods and mechanic Robin Tyler built the Corolla themselves. Toyota did not have an official rally factory team yet, it was the time when Toyota rally teams were private initiatives supported by local dealers and importers. So the Boyce-Woods-Tyler trio rolled up their sleeves and adapted the 2T-C engine. This power unit was available for the US market. The engine was tuned to North American emission requirements. This 1.588 cc pushrod engine (OHV), however, offered enough space for a substantial power injection. The 2T-C engine was increased by the Canadian trio to 140 DIN-HP. In addition, the Canadians also further adapted the car to prescribed rally specifications. The Corolla became a Group 2 car, and a historic success for Boyce and Woods. And also for Toyota itself.
Attackers far behind
The Press-On-Regardless was the biggest and most important victory for the duo. And the way it came about with the Corolla SR5 was utterly impressive. The duo has been in the lead of the rally since special stage 7 (Classic Motorbooks). The Canadians no longer relinquished the game. In fact, when compiling the final classification, it turned out that Walter Boyce and Doug Woods were almost half an hour ahead of James Walker and Terry Palmer. They drove their Volvo 142 S to second place. Third place on the podium went to John and Carol Smiskol. The duo finished with the Datsun 240 Z with more than 35 minutes behind the Corolla.
Datsun rules top ten, Toyota rules rally
Speaking of Datsun. That was a big rally player at the time. In the top ten of the Press-On-Regardless 1973 there were four more Datsun copies. They were all rally versions of the 510. Two Fords (Escort Mk1 1600 RS and a Capri 2600 RS) and the Polski Fiat 125p 1500 of the Polish duo Mucha-Zyskowski (sixth place) completed the top ten. It showed in 1973 that everyone in America had no chance against the Corolla and its team.
Only two Toyotas in POR 1973
The Boyce-Woods duo had put Toyota well on the map. With the agile Corolla, they had measured everything and everyone. Remarkable: Boyce and Woods's car was the only Corolla in the field. Moreover, it was one of only two Toyotas in the rally. The other Toyota was the Corona, which was manned by the American duo Braund-Natho. This combination did not make it to the finish. That was no exception around Michigan, because only 23 of the 57 teams made it to the finish line.
"Down to the wire"
Toyota Japan was delighted with the victory of Boyce and Woods, and made good use of materials available to prepare the Corolla for rallying for each event. It was still considered too early for a factory team or for full support in Japan, yet the Canadians remained loyal to Toyota until 1976, just as they remained loyal to their rally car. Until September 1974 they drove their races with one and the same rally car. With success, because they achieved many podium places with the Corolla. Doug Woods would later declare that his and Boyce's Toyota had run up to the wire. After the Rocky Mountain rally 1974, he switched to the Toyota Celica 1600 together with Walter Boyce. From 1977, Boyce and Woods parted ways definitively.
Inspiration for Andersson
Boyce and Woods never drove for a European team. But that their triumphal march in North America inadvertently constituted an extra weapon for Ove Andersson to put Toyota on the rally map for good is more than an assumption. The Canadian victory in the Press-On-Regardless was a welcome boost to Andersson, who had just one more argument to convince Toyota Japan of Toyota's enormous potential in rallying. That worked, also with a lot of help from Eugène Paesmans. For example, Andersson became the first manufacturer with full factory support, and from Lot in Belgium worked steadily with TTE on the foundations of a success story that is unparalleled.
You can find more articles about the forgotten Toyota WRC victories here.