Toyota was planning to build its own racetrack in Australia as part of its bold launch for its Toyota 86 sports car, CarAdvice can exclusively reveal.
The company was researching possible venues in Victoria and New South Wales where it could build a tarmac circuit that could be used for races as well of training for staff and customers, though CarAdvice understands the plan is now unlikely to go ahead due to prohibitive costs.
Toyota Australia considered a range of sites that are close enough to either Melbourne or Sydney, but far enough away that they are not surrounded by houses in the next few years.
It had ruled out buying or overhauling an existing track and was instead keen to start with a fresh parcel of land with a brand new circuit.
Toyota started the process of a planning a potential circuit of its own as it worked towards launching the 86 sports coupe.
A Toyota insider told Car Advice the idea to build its own track would not have been considered were it not for the arrival of the new 86.
Toyota designed the new affordable coupe in a way that encourages customers to take their vehicle to the track, including a helmet-friendly headrest and space for four race wheels and tyres in the boot (with the rear seat back folded down).
Toyota Australia wanted the freedom to be able to use a track when it would like, rather than squeeze into crowded schedules of existing circuits.
The circuit could also have been used for Toyota Australia vehicle development, which is currently limited to the Linfox-owned Anglesea Proving Ground. That facility has a range of various roads but no race track.
Asked why Toyota is looking to invest a large amount of money in its own track, our source said: “The tracks we want to use are just so busy that we just can’t get in.”
The other issue is the price of hiring tracks, which has blown out in recent years.
Track hire at suitable venues runs from $3000 to $8000-plus per day. The sums start to pile up when Toyota hires a track for a series of days.
The company has used the Oran Park track in South Western Sydney for some events, but the circuit was closed in early 2010 and is now part of a new housing development.
Top tracks near Sydney in Melbourne include Sandown, Calder Park, Phillip Island and the Broadford Motorcycle Complex, while Sydney has the recently refurbished Eastern Creek and Wakefield Raceway which is much further away in Goulburn.
A range of carmakers including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche and Audi all run advanced driver training programs at race tracks in Australia, encouraging owners to make the most of their vehicles.
Most of these programs make little or no money, due partly to the price of track hire, but are considered worthwhile as they strengthen the relationship between the company and the customer.
With the arrival of the 86, it is possible Toyota Australia would embark down the same path and help build the cult status of its new sports model with its own training programs.
Our source did mention there was no current plan for a one-make race series, running the Toyota 86.
Toyota Australia would not have been the first company in the world to own a race track, with its parent company owning the Fuji Speedway circuit in Japan (where it launched the Toyota 86, above) since 2000.
Its long-time Japanese rival Honda owns the Twin Ring Motegi complex, which opened in 1997 and hosts a Honda racing heritage museum and is made up of a banked Indy track and a regular circuit.
Ferrari also owns the Fiorano track in Italy.
Toyota Australia would not comment when asked about the Australian race track plan.