Welcome to day one of our Toyota GAZOO Racing blog. We’re driving the Toyota GR Supra across France to the season-opening Rallye Monte Carlo. Our quest: to learn all about Toyota’s new GAZOO Racing performance brand.
On the way, we’ll explore Toyota’s impressive and enviable motorsport heritage – learning how GAZOO Racing is taking knowledge gained from the world’s toughest sportscar races and the most gruelling rallies, and applying it to make a new “ever better” breed of Toyota GR performance road cars.
We’ll also tell you what it’s like to drive the Toyota GR Supra across France – proving that GAZOO Racing’s race and rally-bred underpinnings make the GR Supra the perfect two-seat ‘gran tourer’ for crossing Europe in comfort, pace and style. So, keep checking back to see the latest updates from what should be an amazing journey.
Find out more about the Toyota GR Supra at toyota.co.uk/supra
11:30 Tuesday 21st January
No trip across France is complete without stopping at the iconic Reims pitlane. Based on a triangle of public roads off the D27 autoroute, this former home to the French Grand Prix and the Reims 12 Hours sportscar race was last used in 1969. But even though the only engine notes today are the rumble of trucks ferrying goods around Europe, you can still feel the echoes of racing legends from the past as you explore the abandoned concrete grandstands.
Due to its location in the heart of Europe, Reims is the crossroads of European motorsport – especially when it comes to Toyota’s modern racing history.
Head 220 miles west from Reims and you reach Le Mans, home to motorsport’s toughest and perhaps most iconic test. Run on the 8.8-mile Circuit de la Sarthe (using public autoroutes closed for the event), the Le Mans 24 Hours challenges teams to race twice round the clock through day, night and rain, clocking up speeds of 200mph on the fearsome Mulsanne straight in advanced prototype sportscars.
Toyota has been the dominant force at Le Mans in recent years, its advanced TS050 hybrid prototype taking back-to-back victories in 2018 and 2019, while also setting record-breaking laps that will probably stand for years to come.
Head 220 miles east of Reims into Germany, and you reach the Nürburgring. Known as ‘The Green Hell’, the Nürburgring’s 13-mile Nordschleife loop is perhaps even more extreme than Le Mans, with 170 challenging corners and 1,000 feet of swooping elevation change making it more like a Welsh B-road than a race track.
The Toyota GR Supra is the latest in a long-list of Toyota performance cars to be tested to the limit at the Nürburgring, with the production GR Supra’s handling and high-speed endurance honed over hundreds of laps of the Nordschleife, before a race-prepped Toyota GR Supra made a successful debut in the gruelling Nurburgring 24 Hours in 2019, finishing third in class.
We’re heading south, though, to Rallye Monte Carlo an event in which Toyota has an equally enviable record for success. As we drive the Toyota GR Supra towards Dijon, we can feel every ounce of that sportscar and rallying heritage in the car.
10:00 Tuesday 21st January
After 100 miles of French Autoroute, it’s clear the Toyota GR Supra is the perfect companion for long journeys like this. The 3.0-litre straight six settles down nicely at motorway pace, with its 155mph top speed kept nicely in check thanks to Adaptive Cruise Control and Road Sign Assist. When we do need to pass the French lorries that linger on the inside lane, the twin-scroll turbo provides incredibly direct response from low rpm, delivering the Supra’s 500Nm of torque at an impressive rate.
The driver-focused cockpit (inspired by the cocoon of single-seater race cars) feels incredibly cosseting with its race-inspired leather sports seats – especially when the heated seats and dual-zone automatic air conditioning are cranked up to provide Mediterranean levels of warmth, compared to the cold January air outside. It seems almost a shame to open the windows for the péage toll booths.
The low, slim horizontal dashboard provides the perfect view of the road ahead, with the 8.8-inch high-definition digital dashboard, 8.8-inch central multimedia display and optional head-up display giving us access to all the information we need – whether it’s navigation, a quick phone call to the rest of the crew in our follow car, or a bit of Serge Gainsbourg on the 12-speaker JBL premium sound system.
“The Supra absolutely looks and sounds the part,” says Andrew. “I particularly love the rear profile – whether you’re outside the car, or in it. The rear haunches just sit wonderfully in the rear-view mirror. It’s a hard balance to create a true performance car that is comfortable, easy to drive and not too noisy on a long road trip. But, the Supra feels really easy to drive and refined. And, when you put your foot down, it sounds like a sportscar and reacts like a sportscar. It feels like a real gran tourer.”
07:00 Tuesday 21st January
Joining us on our journey to learn more about Toyota GAZOO Racing is former rally driver turned World Rallycross commentator Andrew Coley, who will act as our guide and all-round guru behind the scenes at Rallye Monte Carlo. As we graze the breakfast buffet on the ferry, fuelling ourselves for the journey ahead, perhaps the most pertinent question is: “What is GAZOO Racing”.
Well, it all stems back to the early days of the internet and a Toyota e-commerce site for used cars – named gazoo.com, after the Japanese word for picture ‘gazo’. Toyota’s engineers picked up on this, using ‘Gazoo’ to describe all of the different and unique performance cars, each sitting in individual ‘garages’. The GAZOO Racing name stuck when Toyota was looking to brand its new performance arm, with GR and GR Sport used to designate race-bred, performance-tuned Toyotas.
06:30 Tuesday 21st January
As we wait for our ferry, there’s time to admire the GR Supra. This dramatic fifth-gen re-imagining of Toyota’s sportscar icon is perfect for this trip. As a two-seat, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive ‘gran tourer’, it boasts the sort of style that turns heads on the autoroute and the Riviera, as well as handling and power that thrill on winding Alpine roads. Inside, there’s room for a weekend’s luggage, behind a two-seat cabin that is as cossetting on long journeys as it is driver-focused on the twisty bits.
On the outside, the GR Supra offers a powerful modern take on classically pure sportscar style. Its low-slung profile – the long bonnet that masks a powerful straight-six 3.0-litre turbo blending into a pushed-back two-seat cabin with a double-bubble roof – is pure 2000GT. (Yes, that’s the iconic 1960s sportscar that Toyota had to chop the top off in order to fit the daunting 6ft2in Sean Connery in You Only Live Twice).
The distinctive front grille evokes classic Supra styling, while the muscular haunches that frame the imposing 19” forged alloy wheels blend into a sharp-edged rear. Not all of the design decisions were about aggressive modern looks or iconic nods to the past, though. Each and every curve of the GR Supra has been designed to boost aerodynamic performance, with the double-bubble roof minimising drag towards the large flick-up rear spoiler, while also creating more headroom inside. Clever stuff.
05:30 Tuesday 21st January
It’s a cold January morning, but a new dawn is breaking for Toyota. We’re in Dover, with the keys to the Toyota GR Supra in our hand – ready to drive across Europe to join Toyota GAZOO Racing at Rallye Monte Carlo.
As Toyota founder Kiichiro Toyoda once said: “To test the durability and performance of their cars, companies ought to participate in auto races. Such races must not be regarded as a simple matter of curiosity. They are indispensable.” So, the idea of driving the GR Supra across Europe to one of the world’s most iconic motorsport events feels like an indispensable way to satisfy our curiosity about Toyota’s new GAZOO Racing performance brand.
Find out more about the Toyota GR Supra at toyota.co.uk/supra
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