Toyota isn’t entering the V8 Supercars series, but the Japanese brand will serve up an entree in 2016 with the announcement of a new Toyota 86 Pro-Am racing series.
Described by the brand as “an affordable, grassroots motorsport series based on the country’s best-selling sports car”, the new championship will be raced exclusively at V8 Supercars events from 2016.
According to Toyota, the racing series will be run in professional-amateur (pro-am) manner with “five professional drivers who will mentor and compete against a larger field of amateur drivers who will qualify to get onto the starting grid”.
The cars themselves will be the base model 86 GT manual, with a racing package fitted that has been developed by Neal Bates Motorsport comprising revised suspension, brakes, extractors and exhaust system, updated ECU, revised oil cooler, and new rims and tyres along with mandatory safety equipment including racing seats and harnesses.
Toyota Australia’s executive director of sales and marketing, Tony Cramb, said the racing series will appeal to enthusiasts who want to get a start in 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,” Cramb said. “The dynamic abilities and fun-to-drive characteristics of the 86 provide a credible platform for motorsport – and many owners already compete regularly in tarmac rallies, lap dashes and other events.
“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,” Cramb said.
“Fundamental to the concept is that it is a grassroots motorsport series that is affordable for anyone who has both the passion and the talent to compete in a national series.”
Toyota’s 86 sports car has managed more than 13,000 sales in Australia since being launched mid-2012, with that number representing the third-highest uptake of the car worldwide.
Toyota has also announced a return to rallying, with the brand confirming recently that it would rejoin the World Rally Championship from 2017.
“Toyota is committed to continuing to bring energy and enjoyment to motoring enthusiasts around the world – from the highest motorsports categories through to grass-roots activities… from races to rallies to customer events,” Cramb said.
The CEO of V8 Supercars, James Warburton, congratulated Toyota for getting involved in Australian motorsport.
“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 motorsport superpowers globally with whom Toyota has an association,” Warburton said.
The chief engineer of the Toyota 86, Tetsuya Tada, said he hopes the new Australian racing series will spawn a wide-reaching world championship.
“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,” Tada said.