The acclaimed new Toyota GT86 race car makes its UK motorsport debut at Silverstone on 22-23 September 2012 as Team Toyota GB returns to the track for the Britcar 24 Hours.
With less than seven weeks to go before the 24-hour endurance race gets underway, we are stepping up our coverage of the racer’s testing and development.
GT86 race car build diary – the story so far…
A standard Toyota GT86 when it was built in May, the car arrived in the UK in June. It will be entered in the production car class of the Britcar 24 Hours, so it will be relatively lightly modified.
It will still be powered by the original 2.0-litre boxer engine, which should remain almost untouched. It will gain a racing catalyst and modified exhaust for the 24-hour event. A differential cooler and a modified 120-litre FIA fuel cell (the tank in the standard GT86 holds 55 litres) will also be added to the spec.
Take a look at our Toyota GT86 reviews round-up
So far, the shell has been stripped, most of the interior has been removed to make way for a racing driver’s seat and FIA-spec safety rollcage. The size and weight of the dashboard will be reduced.
In terms of additional equipment, the Britcar GT86 needs to carry a data logger, a multi-point harness, a fire extinguisher system and an electric cut-off switch. The windows will be removed and replaced with lighter Perspex ones, safety clips will be added to the bonnet and a quick refueling system will be installed. It will roll on 18-inch wheels with racing brakes.
All of the work is being carried out at the Buckinghamshire technical centre of GPRM, the race preparation firm behind the successful BTCC Toyota Avensis prototype.
This will be overseen by Gary Blackham and Roger King, who will aim to retain as much of the original car as possible.
Gary said: “The GT86 is a good base to work from for a road car. The basics are there and we’ll try to change as little as possible. If we feel like we need a little more downforce at the front end, which we’ll find out when we are almost done, we might add a splitter but we are not planning on modifying the body much at all at the moment.”
Asked if there is one element that’s hardest about the race build, Gary has a simple answer: “Time. We’re working flat out on it already and we’re aiming to get the car ready in time but still there is so much that needs to be done in the time we have. It’s always the way though, so we should be OK.”
GT86 race car build diary – first update
There’s a busy week in prospect for the engineers at GPRM. The GT86 was delivered to GPRM’s Buckingham workshops as a complete road car, and has been painstakingly disassembled to allow the fitment this week of a safety roll cage.
This vital piece of equipment has a dual function – not only does the welded steel structure protect the driver in a high-speed accident, it also adds rigidity to the bodyshell, which will aid chassis set-up and handling.
The rollcage has been designed, engineered, fabricated and fitted by GPRM, and once installed will be certified by the MSA, British motorsport’s governing body, that it is to safety standards laid down by the FIA.
The other major job for this week is the fitment of the specialised safety fuel cell to replace the standard fuel tank of the GT86. Made by ATL, the new tank is a seamless ‘bladder’ encased in toughened steel – the aim is to ensure that no fuel will spill in an accident.
Fewer stops to refuel means less time lost in the pits, so the racing GT86 tank holds 120 litres as opposed to the 55 litres of the standard road car. A “quick fill” refuelling system will feature, to enable the tank to be replenished as quickly as possible and with maximum safety during the race.
After this work is complete, the GT86 shell will be off to a nearby paintshop for an all-over respray.
GT86 race car build diary – second update
There’s a GT86-size space in the workshops of GPRM at Buckingham this week, for the Toyota sports car which is being built to contest the Britcar 24 Hours at Silverstone late next month has bent sent away for a paint job.
Having been fitted last week with its safety roll cage and fuel cell, it’s an opportune moment for the GT86 to go off to a specialist to have a coat or two of performance paint applied all over to hide the welding and scarring that has been necessary and, well, to make the finished article all the more appealing.
But the GPRM technicians are busy nonetheless. While the chassis is away they are working to prepare the braking and suspension components which, when fitted to the GT86, will give it an edge on the circuit – larger, high-performance brake discs, for example, and fully adjustable shock absorbers and racing coil springs made by Koni Racing and supplied through Buckingham specialist Sportsline.
When the fully painted Toyota returns to Buckingham, GPRM will start to fit these components to the chassis. “Once we have all the components assembled and ready the GT86 will come together very rapidly,” said GPRM’s Gary Blackham.
Chris Hodgetts makes his racing comeback
The driver line-up for the Toyota GT86’s UK racing debut has been announced – and we can reveal that it marks an amazing comeback for Chris Hodgetts, the man who won back-to-back touring car championships in the Toyota Corolla GT in the 1980s.
What’s more, Chris will be joined in the four-man squad for the Britcar 24 Hours by his son, Stefan.
Between them, father and son have plenty of racing experience, and although he hasn’t competed in a while, 61-year-old Chris can be found at circuits every weekend, testing cars and coaching young drivers.
Stefan, 30, is one of those drivers he has guided, currently competing in the Clio Cup where has been a race winner this year.
Completing the Team Toyota GB quartet for the Britcar, Britain’s toughest race, are journalist and accomplished Aston Martin racer Richard Meaden, and Neil Primrose.
Neil is an experienced historic car racer, and campaigns a Lola 2-litre Lola T212 sportscar and has raced at the historic Le Mans Classic and at the Nurburgring.
Coincidentally, he is also the drummer in the band Travis, famed for the album “The Man Who”, released in 2000.
As well as being the most experienced member of the team – he’s a veteran of six round-the-clock races at Le Mans – Chris will provide a direct link between the new GT86 and the famous Corolla GT (also known as the AE86), one of the classic Toyota sports cars that inspired its development. He told us: “I think the last time I raced a Toyota was the 1988 Spa 24 Hours. We retired eight minutes from the end while leading our class.”
He recently dropped into the workshops of GPRM, where the Britcar GT86 is taking shape: “There was the new car and alongside it was a replica of my old AE86 Corolla, all in its old livery. I admit I shed a tear. It’s wonderful to be reunited.”
Stefan is equally excited at the prospect of racing the Toyota: “I was four or five when dad was wining the BTCC in his Toyota and I remember it vividly. It’s a great connection to the past for me and a fantastic opportunity. And I think my team-mate is a safe and sensible sort of guy who will have over the GT86 in one piece.”
GT86 race car – exclusive first pictures
The countdown to the Britcar 24 Hour race is well and truly on – and we can now bring you an exclusive first picture of the Team Toyota GB GT86, completed and on the track.
Currently being race-prepared by GPRM in Buckinghamshire, the GT86 went through final build stages last Friday, and has been testing today at Silverstone, where the Britcar event will take place on 22-23 September.
GT86 race car build diary – third update
Gentlemen, start your engines! The 2012 Britcar 24 hour race gets underway this weekend – and Team Toyota GB can’t wait to get going.
The race begins at Silverstone circuit at 3pm on Saturday 22nd September. Testing is underway, with drivers Chris and Stefan Hodgetts first behind the wheel of their race prepared Toyota GT86.
“The good news is, the car is quick right out of the box”; said Chris, who won back to back BTCC touring car championships with Toyota in 1986 and 1987. “It stays nice and flat over the curbs, and really has got a fantastic balance.”
“All credit to the team,” he continued “it’s a really nicely made car… Which is just as well. We want to win!”
Based on the standard car and powered by an unmodified 2.0-litre boxer engine, the race prepared GT86 gets a full roll cage, racing seats and adapted suspension and brakes.
In addition the car gets a larger radiator cooler, and a modified 120-litre FIA fuel cell (the tank in the standard GT86 holds 55 litres).
In terms of additional equipment, the Britcar GT86 needs to carry a data logger, a multi-point harness, a fire extinguisher system and an electric cut-off switch.
The windows will be removed and replaced with lighter Perspex ones, safety clips will be added to the bonnet and a quick refueling system is installed. It will roll on 18-inch wheels with racing brakes.
The GT86 will line up on the startline at Silverstone in Class 4, racing for honours against cars built by Seat, Honda and Ginetta.
Podium finish for GT86 at Britcar 24 Hours
Team Toyota GB scored a dream result at the 2012 Britcar 24 Hours endurance race, celebrating a podium finish with the GT86 sports car in what is considered Britain’s toughest motorsport event.
The near standard GT86 impressed all those who drove it. After starting on the 13th row of the grid, the car claimed eighth place overall and finished third in its class.
The GT86 ran faultlessly throughout its 512 laps, completing an impressive 1,874 miles around the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit.
The four-man driving team was led by veteran racer Chris Hodgetts,Toyota’s double BTCC champion of the 1980s. Hodgetts was joined by his son, Stefan, journalist Richard Meaden and Travis drummer Neil Primrose.
“It is an absolutely fantastic result,” said Gary Blackham, whose GPRM team prepared the car. “We harboured ambitions of finishing in the top 10 and we are more than delighted with eighth overall. Given the difference in horsepower between our car and the more modified racing cars in the division, third in class is a great result also.
“The GT86 ran faultlessly throughout. I think the only work we had to do was to add about half a litre of oil during the whole race. All the pit stops went smoothly, the technicians – a mixture of seasoned GPRM regulars and staff from Toyota GB’s head office – worked very well together and the drivers were fantastic; they did everything they needed to and everything that was asked of them.”
The drivers took three-hour turns at the wheel and each put in two stints. Stefan Hodgetts started the race and set the Toyota’s fastest lap towards the end of his first stint, and his 61-year-old father enjoyed the honour of taking the chequered flag. Said Chris: “We drove the wheels off it for 24 hours. We literally ragged the poor little car throughout, and as you would expect from a Toyota it responded with fantastic reliability.”
Added Meaden: “The car is mega through the corners. Considering the short space of time the team had to do the preparation this result is testimony to them and to the performance of the car. Eighth place overall is a fantastic achievement.”
Thirty-three cars took the start of the Britcar 24 Hours, and the class for modified production cars featured 14 entries, of which 12 made it to the chequered flag.
The Britcar Toyota GT86 was powered by the standard 16-valve double overhead cam horizontally opposed ‘boxer’ engine of the road-going model, delivering 197bhp. GPRM now plans to develop a more powerful version for customers looking to buy track Toyotas of their own.