NOW before you get all excited about the impending arrival of a V8 Supercar version of a Toyota, on track with the best Holden, Ford, Volvo, Nissan and AMG Mercedes has to offer – that’s not what’s happening – well not yet anyway.
The Japanese car giant has however today announced an affordable, grass roots motor sport series based on the country’s best-selling sports car, the Toyota 86 coupe, to be raced exclusively at V8 Supercars events.
The series, to start next year, will be run as a pro-am with up to five selected professional drivers who will mentor and compete against a larger field of amateur drivers who will qualify to get onto the starting grid.
The Toyota 86 Pro-Am race series, under the official banner of Toyota Racing Australia, will be staged at selected V8 Supercars events and will be sanctioned by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport.
The 86 race cars will be based on the GT manual with key specifications controlled to ensure their suitability and reliability while keeping costs as low as possible.
Neal Bates Motorsport, owned by the four-time Australian rally champion, has developed and tested a race package that includes suspension, brakes, extractors and exhaust, ECU, oil cooler, rims and tyres as well as mandatory safety gear.
Toyota Australia executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb said the company was committed to supporting enthusiast 86 owners in making the transition to circuit racing.“The 86 sports car has brought to life Toyota’s brand promise as a company whose people love cars and are building exciting vehicles for customers,” Mr Cramb said.
“The dynamic abilities and fun-to-drive characteristics of the 86 provide a credible platform for motor sport – and many owners already compete regularly in tarmac rallies, lap dashes and other events,” he said.
The Toyota 86 Pro-Am series will present genuine, dynamic and entertaining racing to a broad audience, including big crowds at each round and a large audience on free-to-air and pay TV.
“Fundamental to the concept is that it is a grass roots motor sport series that is affordable for anyone who has both the passion and the talent to compete in a national series.”
The 86 has become a cult hero since being launched in mid-2012 with Australians having bought more than 13,000 cars – the third-highest total in the world.
Mr Cramb said Toyota has a proud history in motor sport around the world, using its participation to produce ever-better cars and encourage even more car enthusiasts. Toyota’s 86 one-make series in Australia will be similar to series run in Japan, Germany and New Zealand.
Toyota is the manufacturers’ and drivers’ titleholder in the World Endurance Championship and has competed successfully in the US-based NASCAR, Dakar Rally, Super Formula and Super GT categories in Japan and at iconic races such as the Nürburgring 24-hour endurance race.
“All these motor sport activities involve testing the speed and durability of our vehicles, which helps us enhance the technology, innovation and excitement of our road cars,” Mr Cramb said.
“Toyota is committed to continuing to bring energy and enjoyment to motoring enthusiasts around the world – from the highest motor sports categories through to grass-roots activities… from races to rallies to customer events,” he said.
V8 Supercars CEO James Warburton said the Toyota 86 Pro-Am series was a welcome addition to the sport which offers its world-class racing categories the largest stage in Australasia and a significant global audience.
“This is a fantastic announcement and we congratulate Toyota for making this commitment to motor sport in Australia,” Mr Warburton said. “It is indeed an honour that Toyota, the long-term market leader in Australia, sees the power in the V8 Supercars Series and for us to join the ranks of motor sport superpowers globally with whom Toyota has an association.”
Toyota 86 chief engineer Tetsuya Tada said he was honoured to be named patron of the series, especially because the global success of the Toyota 86 owes so much to Australia. Mr Tada said he was impressed – and humbled – by the overwhelming passion and enthusiasm for the 86 among Australian owners.
“My dream is that one day we can have a World 86 Challenge with the best drivers from Japan, Europe and other markets – and the champion Toyota 86 driver from Australia,” he said.
Further details of the series will be released in coming months.