Nicky Grist will be reunited with Juha Kankkunen and their 1994 Rally of Portugal winning Toyota Celica GT-Four ST185 on this weekend’s Rallye Festival Trasmiera – and with the car back to its original Team Toyota Europe spec, it will be almost identical to when they last sat in it 24 years ago!

Out of all the famous rally cars that Nicky has co-driven in, the Celica ST185 is his favourite as he won his first WRC event with Juha Kankkunen in Argentina in 1993 in the same model car. “I loved the Celica as it was a beautifully engineered car and so strong, it felt like you could drive over anything and throw anything at it and the car would just take it all,” said Nicky.

And when he spotted the ex-Toyota Castrol Team car for sale, he had to have it – despite a lot of renovation work required.

Since Nick purchased the Celica, it has been seen in public once – when Jari-Matti Latvala drove it at Rallyday last year. A lot of work has been done to the ST185 since then, including putting it back into left hand drive.

“This Celica ST185 was originally built for Carlos Sainz in 1992,” explained Nicky. “Juha used it for a Monte Carlo test in December 1992. Then it was used by Didier Auriol in Sweden in 1993 and after that TTE dismantled it and put the shell into a warehouse. They were developing a new shaped Celica, the ST205, for 1994, so instead of building brand new 185 shells for a few events the TTE workshops decided to pick the best of the shells they had in storage and rebuild them. When we did a detailed assessment of this car’s history, we discovered it was last used by TTE at the Rally of Portugal in 1994. I honestly couldn’t quite believe it, because Juha and I won that rally in this very car. It really was a massive stroke of luck!

"To find a car in the ST185 shape with all the history it has had, and having its original body shell, is special. The ST185 was the most successful Celica that TTE made, and they have been seriously rallied by privateers since, which is why they are difficult to come by in a decent specification and in its originality like this one.

“After Portugal the car went to Toyota Team Sweden, Sweden sold it to Norway and then it went to Ireland, where it was converted to right hand drive. It’s most recently been to Lewis Rally Sport, where Warner Lewis has converted it back to left hand drive and completely restored it to its 1994 Rally of Portugal winning spec.

“I thought it would be good to get Juha back in the car again after all these years, and our original TTE mechanic that built the car for Portugal that year, Paul Thackray, is coming with us to look after the car in Spain.

“The Rallye Festival Trasmiera looks like a great event. There is one stage on the Thursday night, two stages on the Friday evening and finally a full day of stages on the Saturday.

“It’s an event that is mainly for historic cars, it’s not timed, it’s just a demonstration event, and it attracts many thousands of spectators due to the wonderful selection of cars that normally are never seen in an event. The stages are all Tarmac, and located in the foothills of the Pyrenees, so the Celica will be in Tarmac spec. The first day of Rally Portugal used to be Tarmac back in 1994, followed by three days of gravel, so it’s not out of character for our Portugal car.”

The Rallye Festival Trasmiera takes place in north-west Spain near Santander from May 10-12.