Toyota’s entry point to motorsport in Australia is continuing until at least the end of 2026.
The Toyota GR Australia 86 Series will also gain a new feeder “Scholarship” series in 2023, as it expands to allow more drivers onto the currently “oversubscribed” grid.
A new car based on the 2023 GR 86 is currently in development by Neal Bates Motorsport, and will debut at the start of the 2024 season. The new GR 86 road car will be on sale in Australia during the second half of 2022.
Despite the new car, category administrator Neil Crompton told media his focus will remain on nurturing talent in an affordable, approachable environment.
It currently costs $1500 per round to enter a car, and the administrators told media it’s possible to compete for less than $5000 per race weekend.
Neal Bates, rally ace and boss of the team developing the new GR 86 racer, described the series as the “cheapest category” of its kind in the country.
The kit required to turn a used 86 into a racer costs around $26,000 at the moment. How much the conversion process for the new car will cost isn’t yet clear, but it’s unlikely to be more expensive than the outgoing model.
Where current 86 Series cars are by independent mechanics or teams using a kit, the 2024 racer will be a turn-key vehicle developed, built, and sold by Neal Bates Motorsport to create “absolute parity” across the paddock.
The upgrades made to the production GR 86 have made the process of converting it into a race car easier, according to Mr Bates.
“The current car has an engine oil cooler, the new car comes with a heat exchanger. We haven’t tested that, but we’re pretty certain that we won’t need an oil cooler because it comes with a heat exchanger,” Mr Bates said.
“If you look at the current car, we had to put a twin fuel pump system in because they got fuel surge. In the specifications of the new car, they said they’ve adjusted the fuel tank so hopefully we don’t have to put the twin fuel pump system in.”
The new 86 also has a larger radiator than the first-generation car, which should make for cooler running in traffic on hot days.
Along with the cost of the car itself, the development team has once again put low long-term running costs high on its list of priorities.
Teams are only allowed to use one set of tyres per race weekend, and the control Dunlop rubber is expected to do the job in both wet and dry conditions.
Toyota says it’s currently working to secure supply from the factory to support the full grid. How much the new GR 86 will cost the public, when it’ll be in showrooms, and how many will be available hasn’t yet been confirmed.
Sitting below the flagship Toyota GR Australia 86 Series will be a new Scholarship category.
Along with providing a home for the soon-to-be-orphaned current model, it will act as a feeder into the flagship GR Series; itself a feeder into categories such as Supercars.
The fastest drivers after a five-race championship will be put through their paces, with a seat behind the wheel of a GR 86 Series car during a race weekend up for grabs.
The 86 Series has supplied three of the four 888 Racing drivers for Supercars in 2022.
As for why Toyota supports the GR 86 Series? It’s all about building interest in the burgeoning Gazoo Racing brand, which has now been applied to everything from the Yaris city hatchback to the hulking LandCruiser 300.
“You need to be where the fans are, hence this kind of activity,” Toyota Australia chief marketing officer, Vin Naidoo, told CarExpert.
“Establishing a brand takes a lot of effort, and it has to be done in multiple disciplines. You’ll see us across a number of disciplines, and it won’t be one size fits all,” he said.