Subaru recently unveiled the GT300 racing version of the BRZ which it will be fielding in Japan's SuperGT series, and now Toyota is following suit with the announcement that it will be bringing not one, but two examples of its GT 86 to the Nürburgring to compete in the grueling 24-hour race there next month. The pair of cars – whose level of modification remains unclear – will be fielded by the company's own Gazoo Racing team alongside one Lexus LFA.
Toyota's racing plans for the GT 86 extend beyond the 'Ring, however, as it has revealed a program to support privateer teams fielding the car domestically in both the Super Taikyu Endurance Series and All-Japan Rally Championship. The latter announcement crucially comes at a time when rumors have resurfaced of Toyota preparing to re-enter the World Rally Championship – a series which the Japanese automaker dominated in the 1990s with four Drivers' Championships and three Constructors' Championships.
The company shut down its WRC operation to branch into Formula One, but now that its F1 program is long gone, could the time be right for Toyota's return to the pinnacle of rallying? Only time will tell, but for now you can scope out the press release and video footage by scrolling below to see what Toyota has in store in the short run.
Car Enjoyment to be Promoted through '86' Sports Car
Toyota City, Japan, April 6, 2012-Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) today announced its 2012 GAZOO activity plans, which are aimed at broadening the appeal of car racing and fostering more car enthusiasts. To successfully reach and support a new generation of car enthusiasts around the world, TMC is striving to make ever-better cars that satisfy drivers and promote the joy of cars in ways that transcend the role of a typical car manufacturer.
As part of initiatives to develop ever-better cars, the GAZOO Racing team has been competing in the 24 Hours Nürburgring endurance race since 2007 and has launched "GAZOO Racing tuned by MN"1 (GRMN), "G Sports"2 (G's) and other models to give car enthusiasts a taste of the thrill of racing and to help develop human resources capable of "automotive seasoning".
To promote the enjoyment of cars, TMC has hosted various events across Japan, such as GAZOO Racing "Waku Doki" circuit events, which give drivers with no racing experience an easy opportunity to safely drive their car on a racetrack.
This year, TMC will use its "86" sports car to promote the allure of cars and foster new ranks of car enthusiasts by entering the vehicle together with the Lexus "LFA" in the 24 Hours Nürburgring endurance race held in Germany from May 17 to 20. Scenes from the race will also be webcast. To promote grass-roots motor sports in Japan, TMC will also sponsor teams competing with the 86 in the Super Taikyu Endurance Series and All-Japan Rally Championship, both of which serve as goals for amateur drivers aspiring to the next level of racing.
For 2012, the slogan "I Love Cars!" will be used for GAZOO activities to encourage car enthusiasts to connect with each other through motor sports and at various events.
Efforts to Develop Ever-better Cars
1. Competing in the 24 Hours Nürburgring Endurance Race
TMC will compete in the 40th 24 Hours Nürburgring endurance race, which will be held at the Nürburgring Circuit in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, from May 17 to 20. This marks the sixth entry for the GAZOO Racing team. Two Toyota 86 sports cars will be entered in addition to the Lexus LFA. TMC will also seek to cultivate personnel suitable for the development of ever-better cars by engaging its own employees as drivers and mechanics for the race.
GAZOO Racing Team for 40th 24 Hours Nürburgring
Team name GAZOO Racing
Vehicle Lexus LFA 86
Car No. 1 Car No. 2
Drivers Takayuki Kinoshita Masahiko Kageyama Hiroaki Ishiura
Akira Iida Hisami Sato Kazuya Oshima
Juichi Wakisaka Yoshinobu Katsumata* Takuto Iguchi
Mechanics TMC personnel
*Current TMC employee
2. GRMN and G's Vehicles
TMC will seek to launch market versions of the GRMN and G's concept cars that were displayed at the Tokyo Auto Salon in January. TMC employees with experience competing in the 24 Hours Nürburgring endurance race will fine-tune these models.
Efforts to Promote Enjoyment through Cars
1. Offering the Thrill of Racing
To foster grass-roots motor sports, TMC will provide racing and training opportunities, and will also support teams who compete in more advanced competitive activities (circuit and rally).
Experience and Training
GAZOO Racing promotes car-enjoyment programs that enable participants to experience motor sports and circuits firsthand. These programs are designed to allow those with no racing experience to participate safely, regardless of the brand of the vehicle they drive. This year, TMC will host community-oriented programs through collaboration with circuits, motor sports organizations, and companies across Japan.
GAZOO Racing "Waku Doki" Circuit Events
This year, to meet the needs of a wide range of fans, TMC will organize events ranging from circuit driving experiences to driving lessons. These programs will help drivers have fun improving their driving skills through basic classes, driving sessions led by an instructor, and the experience of riding along with a professional racecar driver.
March 25 Fuji Speedway
June 1 Fuji Speedway
June 16 Suzuka Circuit
July 23 Sportsland Sugo
August 25 Tokachi Speedway
September 7 Okayama International Circuit
September 12 Fuji Speedway
November 11 Autopolis
Through a new program starting this year, TMC will contribute to the promotion of grass-roots motor sports with a wide participant base, aiming to increase the number of participants by sponsoring teams that compete with the 86 and by working with teams to spread news about the fun of grass-roots motor sports.
1) Activities to enliven circuit racing
Sponsor a team to compete in the Super Taikyu Endurance Series (vehicle: 86)
2) Activities to enliven rallying
- Sponsor a team to compete in the All-Japan Rally Championship (vehicle: 86)
- Sponsor the TRD Rally Challenge
2. Providing Venues for Car-Enthusiast Interaction
TMC will promote opportunities for car enthusiasts to gather around vehicles and share their dreams, hopes and enthusiasm for cars.
Hosting the Toyota GAZOO Racing Festival
Held for ten consecutive years from 2001 as the Toyota Motorsports Festival, last year the name was changed to the Toyota GAZOO Racing Festival to attract even more car enthusiasts by showing that the festival is not just about motor sports, but also about showing owners ways of enjoying their cars through programs such as GAZOO Mura3. The 2012 Toyota GAZOO Racing Festival is scheduled to take place at Fuji Speedway in late November.
Exhibiting in Custom Car Shows in Japan
By sponsoring its GAZOO Racing booth at custom car shows such as the Tokyo Auto Salon held in Japan every year from January to March, TMC hopes to encourage car fans and enthusiasts to share their excitement as they look at GRMN, G's, and other concept cars and to provide feedback that will be used in product planning.
Exhibiting GAZOO Racing at the 24 Hours Nürburgring
GAZOO Racing will once again sponsor its GRMN-brand booth at the 40th 24 Hours Nürburgring endurance race to be held this year from May 17 to 20. TMC plans to display the prototype model for the "GRMN iQ Supercharger", which is slated for release in Japan this summer.
Exhibiting GAZOO Racing at the Goodwood Festival of Speed
TMC will once again exhibit in the Goodwood Festival of Speed, a motor sports festival to be held this year in Goodwood (West Sussex, England) from June 29 to July 1. The "GAZOO Racing 86", one of the vehicles that will be entered in the 40th 24 Hours Nürburgring endurance race, will be among the vehicles displayed.
Program Exhibited vehicles
Hill climb drive GAZOO Racing LFA (vehicle competing in the 40th 24-hour Nürburgring endurance race)
GAZOO Racing 86 (vehicle competing in the 40th 24-hour Nürburgring endurance race)
1A product brand forged on the streets of Nürburgring-considered by many to be the crucible of performance-vehicle development-and through other races and fine-tuning by GAZOO Racing test drivers
2A sports conversion series of models fully tuned by GAZOO Racing test drivers and set at an affordable price range by reducing production costs through partial inline customization and other measures to give a wider range of consumers a taste of racing and the enjoyment of cars
3An initiative aimed at using cars and the Internet to connect towns and villages (mura) across Japan. Starting with three mura on the southern island of Kyushu in 2006, the program has expanded to what is now 58 mura covering all 47 prefectures of Japan. The 441 bloggers that contribute to gazoo.com's blog page write posts introducing the seasonal scenery and events in their mura, inviting people who read the blogs to drive out and visit them to participate in hands-on or experience-oriented activities.