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Akio Toyoda Flips New Rally Car

by | June 14, 2024

One thing you can say about Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda: he’s ready to push things to the limits, as he proved while testing out a new rally version of the automaker’s GR Yaris at the R&D center in Shimoyama, Japan. While most executives tend to prefer covering up their mistakes, Toyoda left his out for everyone to see.

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Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda has served as an on-track driver for the automaker’s Gazoo Racing operations.

Anyone who’s visited the Toyota R&D center in Shimoyama, Japan in recent days might be surprised to see the rally-spec version of the GR Yaris coupe lying on its roof off to the side of the track.

What may come as a bigger surprise is learning that it wound up that way when Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda lost control while running some test laps, flipping over after catching gravel on lap one.

Both Toyota and copilot Norihiko Katsuta found themselves strapped in, hanging upside down.


Unlike most senior corporate executives, Akio Toyota is a passionate driver who insists on testing out his company’s upcoming products. (Among the other exceptions are Ford CEO Jim Farley, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares and General Motors President Mark Reuss.)


Toyoda has long raced under the pseudonym, “Morizo.”

To earn that ability, Toyoda reportedly had to go through the same testing as other “master” drivers approved to operate on the Shimoyama track.


The grandson of Toyota’s founder, he has regularly raced, adopting the pseudonym, “Morizo Kinoshita” to downplay his presence. Toyoda has proven his mettle, among other things winning his class at the 2014 24 Hours of Nurburgring, while coming in 13th overall. At the same circuit in 2019 he finished 40th overall and third in class behind the wheel of a Toyota GR Supra GT4.


As any seasoned track veteran knows, not all races will go the way you expect. Whether calling himself Morizo or Akio, Toyoda has had his “oops” moments.

And this actually wasn’t the first time he’s crashed while testing a Toyota vehicle. Back in 2016 he banged up an early prototype of the GR Yaris during winter testing at the automaker’s track in Hokkaido.

Exiting the wreck, he reportedly told one of the engineers, he didn’t “like the feel of it.”

(You can see a video of the incident here.)

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Hanging upside down, Toyoda reportedly said, “I can’t believe this. Are you all right?” to copilot Katsuta, before they manage to free themselves and crawl out the car’s windows. “I’m fine, but the car isn’t,” came the reply.

Rather than having the wreck immediately cleared, Toyoda suggested it should stay in place, “as a symbol od drive, fix and break.”

“It’s a little embarrassing for me, but it’s a good example,” he added in a video covering the crash.

Drive, break, fix

“The most important thing in carmaking is repeated driving, breaking and fixing cars,” Toyoda added. “Shimoyama is a place to drive, break and fix cars repeatedly every day.”

Toyoda served as CEO of Toyota Motor Corp. until spring 2023, moving into the chairman’s role which requires fewer day-to-day responsibilities.

It also gives him a bit more time to run laps at Toyota’s various test tracks. There’s no indication whether he might have to take a remedial course in the wake of his latest incident.


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