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Evolution of GAZOO Racing New Zealand

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TOYOTA GAZOO RACING NEW ZEALAND IS ONE OF THE EXCITING EVOLUTIONS OF THE TOYOTA BRAND, INJECTING EXCITEMENT AND PERFORMANCE ACROSS THE RANGE.

At Toyota locally and globally there has always been a spirit of motorsport running in the blood, and the now-expanding GAZOO Racing brand is providing a mechanism to express and share it through an exciting few additions. It’s important to understand the roots of GAZOO Racing and how it has infiltrated the Toyota brand today.

The Castrol Toyota Racing Series (TRS) was born in New Zealand in 2005. The New Zealand Grand Prix was picked up soon after and then Toyota locally developed the 2ZZ engine to run on E85 biofuel.

The inaugural TRS champion was Brent Collins and the goal of finding New Zealand’s next world champion was underway. In fact, nine out of the 10 winners in the first 10 years were from New Zealand.

In 2010 Toyota New Zealand added an international series. This was the time TRS transitioned from being local to having a more global formula.

2013 saw the introduction of the one-make Toyota 86 series, a domestic motorsport championship attracting many young drivers and seen as an important stepping stone to the TRS.

In 2015, and after 10 years with the FT-40s, the TRS introduced the FT-50, and the independently operated Kiwi Driver Fund was established to support Kiwi competitors.

In 2017 the whole operation was moved from Mt Richmond to the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing headquarters at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, then at the beginning of 2020 Toyota continued the ongoing car development and reinvestment by introducing the new FT-60 single-seater. Sixteen seasons and a third iteration of the singleseater built on a strong alliance with Tatuus in Italy for the chassis and including the locally developed engines.

Fundamental to the ongoing success of the TRS series, and to stay relevant in global motorsport terms it is key to be able to continue to develop Kiwi drivers to take on the rest of the world. Finding New Zealand’s next world champion is the core purpose of the category, and given the achievements of many TRS graduates, to date, the Toyota Racing Series has been a success story.

Through the decades and 32 years of consecutive market leadership in some testing times, and through some tough and long model life-cycle changes, there was a danger that the Toyota products would be considered the best from a safety and reliability perspective, but would slowly move away from being desirable and aspirational.

THE SHIFT

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand General Manager, Andrew Davis says, “We believe we have an exciting future ahead and it's a great time for us here in New Zealand with GAZOO Racing. 

"The background of the whole concept of GR has essentially been supported by Akio Toyoda. It makes a big difference when the CEO of the entire company is a massive car and Motorsport guy.

"Akio talks a lot about happiness and fun when it comes to driving motor vehicles, and Toyota and he often uses the term 'producing ever better cars' in reference to why GR exists.

TRS has gone to springboard some of our local drivers to the world stage.

“New Zealand’s own Brendon Hartley winning of Le Mans this year – this is his second time – and a hat trick for our FIA World Endurance Championship [WEC] car and Sébastian Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima. Brendon was the first race winner in a TRS car at the age of 15, at Timaru in 2005.

“The success of GR has continued into many other categories,” he says.

In 2017 Akio wanted to see Toyota back in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) following the success from the launch of the new WRC car in 2017. In 2018 the team won the manufacturer’s championship, and last year Ott Tanak won the championship.

“From the sands of the Dakar, WEC and WRC and huge achievements in Japan, there’s no denying the passion of all the GR teams around the globe. All distributors are sharing this passion with customers,” says Andrew.

THE INTRODUCTION OF GR MODELS

The latest product, the GR Yaris, is a unique model that benefits from the design and engineering skills of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing and former world rally champion Tommi Mäkinen, Toyota’s motorsport advisor and partner in the WRC programme.

It follows the GR Supra as Toyota’s second global GR model. Every aspect of the car has been developed by Toyota with a performance focus. The cars are built at the Motomachi factory, which is dedicated to manufacturing GR sports cars. Instead of having a traditional conveyor system, the body and assembly lines comprise several different cells connected by autonomous vehicles. Many manual processes by a specialist team of skilled workers allow for the high-precision assembly of vehicle bodies with a rigidity that would be hard to achieve on standard production lines.

“Toyota has a long and successful history when it comes to performance vehicles.  Whilst it's been a long time between models, we're now getting back to our roots in a big way," says Andrew.

“GR Supra kicked this off for us last year, and there are more products being planned. However, GR Yaris is Toyota’s first genuine AWD sports car since the end of the production of the Celica GT-Four.”

Across two generations and three models, the Celica featured in Toyota’s most successful WRC campaigns, a golden age of rallying that brought the company 30 rally victories.

“The GR-S will add extra flair to the popular C-HR and other changes we've made to the C-HR range," says Andrew. 

More of the GR Brand will be unpacked next year.