• Kyodo

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Toyota Motor Corp. will return to the World Rally Championship in 2017, joining the prestigious rallying series for the first time in 18 years, sources said Monday.

The automaker will make a formal announcement Friday at a Tokyo press conference for its motor sports activities, the sources said.

Toyota is looking to strengthen its technology development and enhance its brand image by rejoining the WRC, which, like Formula One, is one of the world’s most renowned race series.

Japan’s auto industry is beginning to re-enter motor racing after Toyota, Honda Motor Co. and other Japanese car manufacturers pulled out of major races to trim costs following the 2008 global financial crisis that triggered a plunge in auto demand worldwide.

Honda will participate in F1 this year as an engine supplier to the McLaren team of Britain for the first time after it withdrew from the grand prix racing series in 2008.

Major global automakers, including Germany’s Volkswagen AG — Toyota’s biggest rival in global sales — have been taking part in the WRC.

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