Deep contained in the Toyota Gazoo Racing facility in Cologne, Germany lies a fully unbelievable motorsport museum that’s sadly accessible solely to a restricted variety of guests.
The race automobile museum is closed to the general public as a result of it’s positioned inside Gazoo Racing’s R&D heart, the place engineers work on Toyota’s newest Le Mans and WRC applied sciences. I used to be not too long ago capable of invite myself on a guided tour of the museum – primarily a warehouse for retired Toyota race autos – the place I took a dive deep into the Japanese automaker’s worldwide racing historical past.
Within the entrance corridor I used to be met by a 2021 Toyota Yaris WRC automobile, plus a motorsport-bred Toyota GR Supra and a Le Mans TS050 LMP1. The Yaris is an earlier rally mannequin, not the trendy 380hp GR Yaris hybrid that made its debuted within the 2022 World Rally Championship. The profitable #8 TS050 from the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans is introduced in its ‘as raced’ situation, grime and all.
Seeing a GT4 Evo GR Supra in plain white solely made me want to see such variations on public roads. Since its first race season in 2020, the GT4 Supra has achieved greater than 100 podium finishes and brought residence at least 11 nationwide and worldwide championship wins.
The museum is separated into three areas: Components 1, Le Mans, and WRC.
It was rallying that began all of it: Toyota Crew Europe was established in Brussels in 1975 by Swedish rally driver Ove Andersson, however in 1979 the operation started its transfer to a brand new web site in Cologne. In 1993, Toyota took full possession of the corporate and renamed it Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG).
The Celica TA64 was the primary TMG creation. This automobile was developed for Group B rallying, and was nicknamed ‘African Queen’ after its successes on the Safari and Ivory Coast rallies.
For the Group S class that was destined to interchange Group B, Toyota was engaged on a wild prototype with the codename 222D. Engineers at Toyota took the MR2 AW11 as a base, however ditched the 1.6L 4A-GE for a 2.2L straight-four 503E from a Toyota Le Mans automobile. The rally automobile produced round 600hp, whereas the identical primary engine was capable of present 900hp in IMSA 88C automobiles.
Sadly, after plenty of heavy accidents in Group B, WRC regulators scrapped the Group S rules for far more stringent Group A guidelines, so the 222D by no means noticed the sunshine of competitors.
After all of the regulation modifications, Toyota went again to the Celica chassis and the Castrol-liveried ST185 GT-4 grew to become one of the vital spectacular rally automobiles of the Group A period with drivers together with Juha Kankkunen, Carlos Sainz and Didier Auriol.
The museum homes a correct Safari-spec Celica ST185, reminding us that ’90s Toyota WRC automobiles have been a few of the greatest specialists on rugged African roads.
The later WRC Corolla confirmed how a boring household automobile may very well be remodeled into a lovely wide-bodied racer. In its third yr of competitors, the WRC-AE111 took out the 1999 World Rally Championship constructor’s title.
Toyota’s Components 1 chapter was a a lot much less profitable one, however not for an absence of dedication. TMG was tasked with constructing the 2002 F1 season automobile. That included the engine, all underneath one roof right here in Cologne.
Panasonic Toyota Racing scored factors on the very first race in Australia with Mika Salo, however remained a middle-field group for the remainder of the season, and to that matter, till the top of their F1 marketing campaign in 2009.
Beneath one among TMG’s wind tunnels sits F1 chassis from yearly Toyota competed, together with probably the most aggressive TF109 automobile used within the final ever race.
Sadly, there wasn’t a risk to look contained in the tunnel, however TGR kindly supplied me with a few pictures.
To be trustworthy, whereas I used to be photographing and inspecting the similar-looking open-wheel F1 racers, my eyes stored wandering in the direction of a few iconic TS020 Le Mans prototypes.
‘TS020′ may not sound acquainted, however I’m certain the title ‘GT-One’ rings a bell. These automobiles competed within the 1998 and 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans races. The prototypes have been extraordinarily quick in qualifying however suffered technical failures within the races. Additionally, discover the tiny wiper blade that the group put in throughout dry-weather qualifying classes.
The Japanese squad with drivers Ukyo Katayama, Toshio Suzuki and Keiichi Tsuchiya completed ninth in 1998 and a detailed 2nd in 1999. And sure, that’s the Keiichi ‘Drift King’ Tsuchiya.
The best a part of the GT-One story is that TMG constructed two road-going variations of the automobile. One is displayed proper right here in Germany whereas the opposite sits on the Toyota museum in Japan. This was the identical period of racing when Mercedes-Benz needed to construct the CLK GTR and Porsche created their 911 GT1.
In essence, the road-legal GT-One is similar prototype, simply with a extra civilized inside and a dashboard from an everyday mass-produced Toyota. Beneath its cowl, the automobile boasts a 3.6L twin-turbocharged V8 engine good for 600hp.
Behind them is the #36 Toyota TS010 that was developed in partnership with TOM’S. This actual automobile completed 4th within the 1993 Le Mans 24 Hours race with Eddie Irvine, Toshio Suzuki and Masanori Sekiya on the wheel.
My tour completed with a row of recent racing prototypes, particularly the TS030, TS050 Hybrid, and the newest GR010 Hybrid that was revealed in 2021. Each hybrids share 5 back-to-back 24 Hours of Le Mans wins and 4 FIA World Endurance Championships.
I’m endlessly grateful that Toyota allowed me to discover their vivid European motorsport historical past, and I’m wanting ahead to seeing how the revised GR010 Hybrid Hypercar will defend its #1 standing towards the new-era hypercar competitors.
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Further Photographs by Toyota Gazoo Racing