armstrong-racing-autocrossJust like most people I know, I met Tom Armstrong of Armstrong Racing via autocross while I was still driving my E36 STX BMW. At the time he was seeking guidance on the local forums on his runs and how to better himself. He constantly strived to improve himself given the tools he had to work with. I loved the concept of the Yaris at autocross. It is a car that most completely dismiss as nothing more than a cheap commuter and hopeless in race trim. So, when people like Tom build one out, it’s definitely worth a closer look. Welcome to the March ’16 Featured Import: Tom’s Yaris..The Little Toyota That Could.

What type of car do you have?

It’s a 2007 Toyota Yaris Sedan S (TRD edition). My wife bought this car in December of 2006 as a rare version of the Yaris. It came with a lot features such as all power accessories and TRD suspension parts pre-installed, which set this apart from the rest of the Yaris’ on the road. Unfortunately, there is no engine upgrade available and every Yaris in the US market gets anemic 106hp 1.5L.

A lot of people give their cars nicknames/actualnames. Do you have one for your Yaris? If so how did you come about choosing it?

IMG_5906No, car naming isn’t my thing….but my wife did call it “kitty” when she first bought it. My co-workers call it “the TuRD” LOL!

Mod List! Let’s have it!

  • 2013 corolla 2ZRFE engine swap
  • Tokico HP dampeners
  • MicroImage 4k springs
  • Whiteline and TRD bushings
  • TRD rear sway bar
  • Tanabe chassis bracing
  • Sparco Sprint V racing seat
  • Racequip 5pt harness
  • Autometer and AEM gauges
  • Stoptech stainless steel brake lines
  • Stoptech rotors
  • Winmax Pads and shoes (yes the Yaris has drum brakes)
  • 15×7 Enkei RPF1 wrapped in 225/45ZR15 Hankook RS3
  • Lightweight battery

When you think of a SMF car, you generally don’t think of a Yaris in that class. What made you choose a Yaris for the build?

I never honestly intended for the Yaris to leave STF, but an engine failure and encouraging sponsors pushed me to kick it up a notch this year. I found a power-plant from a recently totaled Corolla within my price range and jumped on it. It’s not up to par with the serious SMF cars, but in time I plan on getting there.

Have you always wanted to build a Yaris? If not what other cars have you built/modified?

IMG_0158I used to be a Honda guy, until my Civic was stolen (again). I vowed to never own another Civic, and started tossing around my wife’s Yaris….that’s when I realized the car had potential!

Let’s talk suspension. Given the geometry what do you think is one thing the car could do better (i.e. sweepers, hairpins, transients)?

In its current condition I feel the car could be better at slaloms. Last year at the 2015 El Toro Pro Solo, I was one cone away from winning the bonus challenge……The front pushed enough to hit a cone in the middle of the high speed slalom at wide-open-throttle. I was absolutely heart broken.

What would you say the car’s primary strength is?

In a word: agility. The Yaris is super light, weighing in at 2300lbs and will go where you direct it for the most part. As a result, increases in power are felt nicely and braking has never been an issue.

Street Mod is lovingly called the “Spend Money” class within the SCCA. Do you think it’s possible to be competitive in Street Mod with a restricted budget?

We will have to see. So far this year I’ve only been up against similarly modified cars, where the driver-mod prevails. Once a real SMF car shows up, I will have to switch to r-comps and leave my street tires in the garage.

With the 2016 National Level schedule set for the SCCA , how many events do you plan on doing this year with the car?


A modest 225/45/15 RS3 tire shows that you don’t always need to break the bank in order to have a ton of fun.

I definitely plan on attending the San Diego Match Tour. As much as I’d love to go attend the Pro Solo again, I’m unsure about whether I’ll make it. Since I also participate in NASA HPDE events, I probably won’t have the budget for two national level SCCA events in one month back to back.

Are there any sponsors you would like to acknowledge for their assistance in getting your car to the way that it is?

First, I have to thank my friend John B. Not only is he a generous sponsor, but he also co-drives the Yaris and shows me where I could be faster. SubCompact Culture also have been very generous with the engine swap coverage and support. The Racers Line have been a huge support from the GT86 community. My friend Brandon B, The NorCal Yaris Club, and Winmax.

As most of raced cars undergo continuous changes, what are the next plans for the car?

I would like to get coilovers and some r-comp tires, but that’s about it. I’ve seen too many forced induction engine failures to even consider something like that for my car. I really want to focus on the exterior of the car this year. It’s been hit several times and I want to bring it back up to factory specs.