Toyota has already returned to making soulful cars that are fun to drive. This is a story on how I'd continue that trajectory.
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"If I ran the company..." The CarAdvice team play 'fantasy football' with the automotive industry and take turns in the top seat of the big brands. What would we do if we ran the show? This time, Justin takes over the performance arm of Toyota, Gazoo Racing.


I was going to start this piece by saying first, I'd change the name of my newly inherited business – but let's park that.

Toyota Gazoo Racing, despite the interesting name, is a fascinating Motorsport enterprise.

They've had numerous successes in many forms of Motorsport, be it in the World Endurance Championship with Le Mans Prototype (LMP) vehicles, World Rally Championship with the Yaris WRC, and even in the Dakar Rally with a production-based 200-series Land Cruiser as well with an equally cool modified Hilux.

That's all well and good.

However, as with any good, factory-owned motorsport endeavour, the key to success is bank-rolling it with equally awesome road cars.

Cue Toyota GR Supra and Toyota GR Yaris.

I've given my thoughts on the Supra in an old v new comparison, which you can read here. I've yet to drive the GR Yaris, but by reports from my colleague, Joshua Dowling, the verdict so far is that it's excellent, too.

So, where to from here? My plan is two-pronged.

The first step is to dial into a conference call to befriend those building cars over in Dieppe, France.

Who's that you ask? Alpine, of course.

Toyota has proven that collaborative efforts can result in greatness. The new Supra is my case in point, as if it weren't for BMW, that thing wouldn't have likely been as good as it is, or even exist at all, for that matter.

I'm not going to rabbit on justifying why I love it; as those sentiments were penned in my review that I've mentioned above.

What I will go on to explain however is how I could go about doing it again, this time resurrecting a different cult-classic nameplate - the MR2.

I'm probably going to be hunted down and burned at the stake for saying this, but under my imaginary watch, it'll actually be enjoyable to drive.

In order to understand, let's recap.

The first-generation 'W11' MR2 (the one to have, not the AW10), a car I've owned two of, is a threat to life and limb. Forget the 911, this is the true JDM widow-maker.

Those aficionados of the nameplate, or suckers for punishment depending how you view it, will likely rebut my claims. Waxing lyrical about how I don't understand how balanced one is, how it's a grown-up's go-kart, and how it rewards smooth and consistent driving that relies on momentum, and therefore, skill.

Again, that's great and all, but there's nothing fun about screeching Hail Mary as you loop the thing on a public road by sheer accident, due to a bit of rain, or unforeseen debris on the road.

However, despite possessing Charles Manson-like traits, there were some good things going on.

First, the engine. The ones you want are powered by Toyota's 4A series of engines. The MR2 came with either a 1.6-litre, twin-can naturally-aspirated motor called the '4A-GE', or the same thing, with a supercharger, dubbed '4A-GZE'.

Both of these engines, due to featuring the letter G in their names, feature a fantastic 16-valve cylinder head designed by the masters over at Yamaha. The familiarities between this engine's head and Cosworth's legendary BDA series of engine, those with a 16-valve twin-cam, is extraordinary. Maybe a little too uncanny.

This model was later replaced by the arguably better second-generation 'W20' MR2, a car I've always wanted to own. With more modern, elegant styling, likely to have been pilfered from Maranello, it stepped things up in more ways than just looks.

Gone was the 1.6-litre engine. In came the 3S series Toyota motor, now with an upped-displacement of two litres, and a turbocharger depending on the version. Let's not talk about the nonsense that was the 2.4-litre 'SW21' version.

The snappiness, or end-swapping behaviour had been muted, and it gained a better interior, more sound deadening, and became somewhat of a baby GT car.

The third-generation 'W30' went a little unloved here in Australia. This is mainly due to it only being offered with a rather interesting single-clutch automated manual, or Sequential Manual Transmission (SMT), as Toyota called it. With no H-pattern offered in our market, it failed to strike a chord with local buyers, and later on with enthusiasts in the used market also, due to the transmission.

Overall, some big shoes to fill.

So where does that leave me, now planning the successor?

Well, back to Alpine.

Instead of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars reinventing the wheel per se, I plan to build my new, fantasy MR2, on the existing Alpine chassis, by brokering a deal "the French can't refuse".

Given the current state of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, it wouldn't come as a surprise to hear the nice-to-have toys in the portfolio, like Alpine, were under severe scrutiny.

Lucky are those folk at Dieppe then, for me. With my gesture of goodwill, AKA a huge injection of cash, Alpine can go on to live another day, monetise their truly awesome chassis, and ride the loyalty train deep into the green.

I'll be kind too, and ask for nothing more than the chassis itself. Interestingly, the new Alpine A110 is also the child of collaborative efforts, like the current GR Supra, and my mythical GR MR2. It uses the Renault Megane RS engine, which as good as it is, just isn't right for my application.

Instead, my wonderful team of engineers will have the wonderful and bountiful Toyota parts-bin to pilfer from.

I've heard of V6-swapped previous-generation MR2s being a hoot, so the idea of employing Toyota's 'GR' V6 engine, as used in the Toyota Aurion during the engine's infancy, seems somewhat appealing. It's available with hybrid tech too, so that could work.

However, I am deciding to carry on where the third-generation MR2 left off, not the second.

So, we will choose the Toyota 'G16E-GTS' engine, a 1.6-litre turbocharged three-banger, as to be found in the upcoming GR Yaris. This makes most sense. It is a lightweight, small package, with heaps of performance, and is currently hooked up to a manual transmission.

Which will be my key point of difference.

I will look to offer the Toyota 'GW40' MR2 with the old favourite of a manual transmission, alongside a first for an MR2, a decent automatic.

To make those die-hard MR2 enthusiasts wet the bed a second time, I'll even go as far as enter some form of competitive rally with it, and fulfill what was originally planned for the first-generation 'W11' MR2.

The Toyota '222D' was an MR2-based rally car that was built to race in Group S, the planned successor to the infamous Group B rally class. However, Group S never came good, and the project was abandoned before the cars could reach the start line.

Reasons for entering WRC span beyond that point alone, however.

Let me remind you now that the current team principal of the Gazoo Racing World Rally Team (WRT) is the man himself, Tommi Mäkinen.

If anyone knows a thing or two about good car dynamics, it's probably him. So my generous, and highly funded development program would see Mr. Mäkinen and his merry band of engineers finely tuning the car on the dirt, as well as on the road, in order to get a more playful balance from the chassis.

Gone will be the days of sketchy snap-oversteer and other undesirable traits. It will be a perfected chassis choc-full of magic, that'll happily dabble in a touch of power oversteer instead, whilst you grab third out of an apex at your favourite race track.

Part one of my plan for sports car domination is set.

Part two, I'll go a little off-kilter.

As you may be aware, the original Supra, was actually called a Celica Supra. This is because the Supra used to be a hot-rodded Celica, to be blunt about it.

It wasn't until the third-generation when the Supra got its own, bespoke platform. What I plan to do here is go back to its roots, by bringing back the Celica Supra. Basically, a reverse of the past.

How will I do this? Simple. By un-hot rodding the current Supra.

Shed as much weight from the car as possible, tack on more simple, easier to press, and thus less expensive bodywork. Maybe go as far as to reduce the track, narrow the guards, and give the rear a hatchback opening.

I'll try my best to use some older, still-existing suspension components, too... I hear BMW parts are quite modular through the ages.

From here, ask for the most basic interior, basic seats, small brakes, the lot.

Throw in the same, 1.5-litre three-banger turbo from the Yaris, couple it with a manual and voila - Toyota GR Celica Supra. Price it in the just above a new Toyota 86 as an alternative, with the true heart of Gazoo Racing on-board.

Before the naysayers blast me with insults and ridicule relating to the fact it'll be too close to the new Toyota 86, hear me out.

Part of the magic of Toyota was the huge amount of variety it was able to achieve with common parts. For example, the X-series of Toyota chassis came in Cresta, Mark II, Wagon and Chaser variants.

Toyots's S-series of chassis underpinned the Toyota Crown with a V8, the Crown with an inline six, the Aristo, the Lexus GS, and even came in four-wheel drive alongside the staple rear-wheel drive format.

All of these served a purpose, and they all drove differently too. Some more so than others, as a fair omission, but still, my plan takes a common part and makes it good in a plethora of ways. I won't go down the path of making hundreds of variants, either.

Just a few that share a common heart, mix-and-matching multiple, existing chassis' with a select few engines.

The old idiom of 'cut from the same cloth' won't translate here. Each will be engineered to be as unique as possible.

So, when do I start as chief of Gazoo Racing?