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Rumoured to be the most successful Toyota Festival yet, the three-day event held in the picturesque Central Otago drew a generous crowd with plenty of thrill-based activities.
More than 400 Toyota enthusiasts and families arrived at Highlands Motorsport Park in Central Otago to leave their mark on the 4.1 kilometre full GT circuit, turn heads in the Show and Shine competition and turn up the terrain on the Sunday’s 4x4 adventure.
Held in the South Island for the first time, this year’s event offered a unique dynamic to the festival, which in the previous year had coincided with the final round of the Toyota Finance 86 Championship at Hampton Downs across two days.
However, with six activities to choose from, this year’s event resulted in more involvement and quality track time for festival goers, including a unique Toyota presentation in the Hilux Cave in Highlands’ National Motorsport Museum, track sessions, off-road skills courses, classroom sessions with experienced circuit drivers, the Show and Shine competition, a 4x4 adventure and competitions for simply bringing along their own Toyotas on the day.
Toyota New Zealand’s Fleet Technician and Show and Shine head judge Brent Sellens says that this year’s festival had a prevalent theme of the Toyota faith in reliability, with most of the fun for many being the incredible lengths undergone by the older models to attend the festival.
“One particular owner drove their 1,000cc, four-speed Toyota Starlet for more than four hours to the event, knowing that the journey was half the glory, not the performance aspect of being used on the circuit. Others ventured out in their late 1970s’ to early 1980s’ pride and joys across the South Island to be admired,” he says.
“You can’t judge a Toyota driver by their appearance. There was such a variety of people with individual tastes of what they love about Toyotas.
“There were some great examples of Toyota production vehicles that are becoming very rare originals as people start to realise the value created in an un-modified vehicle. We gaze at these vehicles in amazement and can only imagine what they’ve been through until now.”
A stand-out in Saturday’s Show and Shine competition was the winner of the pre-1990 category, an original AE86 that was presented in pristine showroom condition. The AE86 has a well known history for being an ideal platform for some of the finest rally vehicles, which still deliver results today.
“To see an original, un-modified AE86 in the flesh and driven on the road was outstanding. This car should be in a museum,” says Brent.
The AE86 was presented alongside the iconic Corolla, Levin and Corona models, including the very first Toyota assembled in New Zealand, a 1966 Corona, which like Toyota New Zealand celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Time-honoured FJ Cruiser displays were popular crowd-pleasers, as was the Kiwi music icon, Dave Dobbyn, who chatted to other like-minded Toyota 86 owners after some quick laps in an 86 during Saturday’s track sessions and having a crack at the 4x4 adventure at the historic Bendigo Station.
Born in 2013, the festival provides a forum for drivers and enthusiasts to get their annual Toyota fix over the course of one weekend, and will likely alternate between the North and South Islands, promising to continue offering exciting activities in years to come.
Source: Believe Magazine - Issue 13 2016