Chasing Cars was fortunate to be invited to the launch of the 2017 season of the Toyota 86 Racing Series, held at Sydney Motorsport Park. The event was an introduction into the one-make series sponsored by Toyota Australia, who are very happy with how the series has played out so far.
In 2016, an average of over 500,000 spectators viewed each race, with an additional 1.77 million people tuning in from their television sets from around the country. Toyota’s Australian executive director of sales and marketing, Tony Cramb, said the series provided an attainable platform for emerging talent.
“The Toyota 86 is the perfect platform to help develop driving and engineering skills,” Mr Cramb said. “It is a professionally run competition with the hallmarks and demands of a marquee category.
“The cost of cars and racing are comparatively low and attract a range of drivers, from those still at school with a national series in their sights to experienced businessmen and even a surgeon out there to have fun on the grid.”
The 86 Racing Series was created as an ‘affordable, grassroots’ platform for racing drivers from all walks of life to compete for a $125,000 prizepool. The exposure for these drivers is invaluable, and even veteran racing driver Mark Skaife was at the event to tell us why he supports the 86 Racing Series so strongly. “This is a fantastic thing for Australian motorsport. An entry-level series is significant in promoting new drivers into the motorsport field” he said, referencing his own motorsport career’s beginnings.
Driving the 86 Racing Series cars – three laps at Eastern Creek
The cars used in the 86 Race Series, T86RS in Toyota speak, are only slightly changed from their road-going cousins as to emphasise the grassroots nature of the series. Covered in stickers and the usual paraphernalia used with race cars, the T86RS’ look mean on the track, especially when they’re flying by at full throttle. The Neal Bates exhaust used is significantly louder than the road car, and due to its free-breathing design, allows the car to produce more power and torque than the road car. Sources in the know mentioned figures to Chasing Cars talking in excess of 170kW and 240Nm.
Naturally, the car’s parts are upgraded and not one thing about the car is left untouched – the wheels are upgraded to 18-inch OZ items with Dunlop Direzza tyres. The suspension is adjustable and significantly firmer than the road car. The brakes are upgraded with larger rotors (330mm front/316mm rear) and four-piston front/two-piston rear callipers. Being race cars, they also feature roll cages which makes them incredibly hard to get in and out of. There is also a complete removal of interior trimmings – only the dashboard remains.
Journos and aspiring racecar drivers were allowed out onto the full Sydney Motorsport Park GP circuit in the 86 race cars, something that surely raised the eyebrows of the car’s race driver owners, whom were sitting next to us for the lap. The first impression of them is that they feel remarkable similar to the 86 road car – the same dartiness, great steering and brilliant gearbox remain unchanged. With zero sound deadening, they are also much louder, so much so that I could barely hear the terrified bloke sitting next to me. It’s easy to see why they chose the 86 as the car for the series – while it’s not a powerhouse, it’s incredibly agile and fun, and is the perfect car for aspiring racing drivers to learn their craft on some of Australia’s best tracks.
Toyota’s motorsport passion
Toyota Motorsport is celebrating its 60th year in 2017, and its involvement with the World Rally Championship (WRC), World Endurance Championship (WEC), the Dakar Rally and even this Australian 86 Racing Series is evidence of the company’s devotion to the sport. Toyota’s involvement in motorsport is well known, but what is less well known is that its motorsport involvement actually started in Australia. In 1957, Toyota entered the Round Australia Trial, a 17,000km test of reliability and endurance, and as a result, became the first Japanese automotive company to enter motorsport.
Featured at the launch of the 2017 season of the Toyota 86 Racing Series were some historical cars of great significance, including Carlos Sainz’s 1998 season WRC Corolla. The 2017 season of the 86 Racing Series starts in April at Phillip Island SuperSprint(April 21-23) and then moves to the Townsville 400 (July 7-9), Sydney SuperSprint (August 18-20), Bathurst 1000 (October 5-8) and the final event of 2017, the Newcastle 500 (November 24-26). Chasing Cars will bring you news of each event as they happen.