Toyota 86 one-make race series

HAVE a lazy $100,000 kicking around to satisfy that need for speed? That’s the budget Toyota Australia estimates will cover the first year of an “affordable, grassroots motor sport series based on the country’s best-selling sports car, the Toyota 86 coupe”. 

That $100K will include buying the car, race package, expenses of racing, transport and entry fees in the first year.

The costs for years two and three should be much lower.

Starting next year, Australia will be the fourth country after Japan, New Zealand and Germany to stage a one-make Toyota 86 series.

The series will run for a guaranteed three years.

To be featured exclusively at selected V8 Supercars events, the series is intended as a pro-am competition with up to five selected professional drivers serving as mentors and benchmarks, with the larger field of amateur drivers qualifying to get onto the starting grid.

Toyota says the mentoring will extend beyond honing driving skills to also teach the amateurs how to manage the complicated business of motor sport, including sponsorship and the right technical support.

Racing under the official banner of Toyota Racing Australia, the Toyota 86 Pro-Am series will be based on the GT manual model, which will have some modifications locked in and controlled to optimise reliability while keeping costs as low as possible.

Neal Bates Motorsport, the engineering company owned by the four-time Australian rally champion, has developed and tested a race package that includes coil-over suspension, four-pot front brakes, extractors and exhaust, programmable Motec ECU, oil cooler, rims and R-type tyres as well as the obligatory safety gear.

The standard 86’s modest standard power output of 147kW will be lifted slightly by the mods.

Pro-Am competitors will also have the freedom to adjust the suspension to their own driving styles.

Bates has lapped the development car around Mt Panorama in 2m42.6s, Wakefield Park in 1m8.7s and Winton Motor Raceway in 1m37.8s.

“The aim is to engineer a car that is pretty much bullet-proof in racing conditions while making it a satisfying and rewarding experience for its driver,” Bates said. “Its ride, response and feedback is phenomenal and very predictable.”

The ECU will be locked and transferable from car to car.

Toyota will subsidise the cost of parts and panels for competitors.

Already lauded for its excellent dynamics and fun factor, the rear-drive 86 Coupe has been a popular choice for many owners who have competed regularly in lap dashes, tarmac rallies and club events. But the Pro-Am series is the first serious attempt to get the 86 a higher motor sporting profile.

Toyota Australia executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb says the company was committed to supporting enthusiast 86 owners in making the transition to circuit racing.

Cramb reinforced the point that the 86 one-make series will not allow drivers to modify their cars beyond strict guidelines, the objective being that the rewards should fall to drivers with the most talent rather than the biggest budget.

Toyota paid a significant, though undisclosed figure, for the 86 Pro-Am to be part of the high-profile V8 Supercars circus, but hopes the investment will be rewarded by large numbers of spectators and television viewers.

Since the 86 was launched in mid-2012, Australians have bought more than 13,000 of them – the third-highest total in the world.

Though Toyota has been absent from local motor sporting battlefields in recent years, on the world stage its presence is more obvious.  It took out the 2014 World Endurance Championship and has competed successfully in NASCAR, Dakar Rally and the Nürburgring 24-hour endurance race.  In 2017, Toyota returns to the World Rally Championship with its Yaris.

V8 Supercars’ boss James Warburton said he was delighted to start a relationship with Toyota, the market leader in Australia.

Warburton welcomed the  Pro-Am’s strong youth flavour as a wonder addition to the championship. 

The car’s ‘rock star’ chief engineer Tetsuya Tada, named patron of the series, 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.

Tony Cramb also hinted strongly that there will be limited edition 86 road-going models, but not necessarily spinning off the race series.

Toyota isn’t the only automotive giant to get behind an international one-make extravaganza; Mazda recently announced the Global MX-5 Cup for its fourth-generation sports car, to run across North America, Europe and Asia.

Starting in 2016, the new series will use identically prepared MX-5s powered by 2.0-litre SKYACTIV-G four-cylinder engines.

Mazda Australia, looking for a re-entry to local motor sport after a lengthy absence, says it is considering a Global MX-5 Cup series for this market.

One-make series, with their almost obligatory biffo, have sporadically been part of Australian motor sport dating back at least to the 1970s, featuring Renault 12, Holden Gemini, Triumph TR7, Ford Laser, Alfa Alfasud, Mitsubishi Mirage, Suzuki GTi,  MG, Lotus and Mini. The standout, enduring one-make competition is Porsche's Carrera Cup.

David Brabham first came to notice in the Laser Series.

In more recent times the MG, Lotus, and the Mini brands have provided chances for wannabe racers to jump into relatively cheap racing on bigger stages.

But the standout, enduring one-make competition is Porsche's Carrera Cup which, along with giving the manufacturer a steady income from parts sales, continues to breed some excellent drivers for other major categories here and internationally.

Further details of the Toyota series will be released in coming months. In the meantime, potential competitors can register their interest on the Toyota website.

Click here to read the full range review of the Toyota 86

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