A couple of weeks ago, we received another one of those mysterious emails that I always look forward to. The source was Toyota Motor Corporation Australia, so I dived straight in. Essentially we received an invite, along with Australia’s top motoring publications, to head down to Canberra for a day of fun and games with the now-one-year-old 86, as well as meet and interview the Chief Engineer for this iconic car, Tetsuya Tada. Excitement!!

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I flew in on Thursday afternoon, and had the pleasure of bumping into some good friends immediately. Gwyn from Gripshiftslide, Ryan from The-Lowdown and Alborz from CarAdvice arrived shortly after me. After meeting the reps from Toyota, we piled onto the bus and headed off to our hotel to have a couple of pre-dinner drinks. That night we were lucky enough to be treated to an incredible dinner at Eightysix restaurant (its ACTUAL NAME!!) with Tada-san. Definitely recommend the spot if you’re ever in the Can.

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The next morning dawned bright and freezing. We chowed down on some brekky and piled into the bus again. By the time we arrived at the driver training facility, Ryan and I had hatched a bit of a plan, but more on that later. Our instructors for the day were to be four-time Australian Rally Champion Neal Bates for the street course, and ADGP Champion Beau Yates, so we were certainly in good hands!

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After a short intro and a few questions for Tada-san, we were divided up into groups for each station: motorkhana, skidpan and street circuit. We spent about an hour at each station, thrashing the Toyota-supplied 86s mercilessly. They didn’t skip a beat, picking up the beating we were all putting down. After all the hype I expected to be indifferent about the car, but I’ll admit that I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for the whole day. So much fun!!!

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Ryan getting into some serious business.

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By the end of the day, I ended up representing Queensland and taking out the Best Motorkhana trophy, while Gwyn picked up Most Improved after spinning out on the street course twice. I might also add that there was pretty much no room for runoff, so no idea how this happened without any damage. Nice!

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We also had the opportunity to drive a factory-modified 86 around the street circuit. The mods were only light: harder damper settings, lower, larger BBS wheels and stickier Dunlop tyres. Being a gearhead, I was sure I would like it more than the standard car, but the exact opposite happened. I actually liked it LESS than the original car which was more progressive and easier to hoon in / drive near the limit. I almost feel like I need to apologise to car enthusiasts, but the standard car was definitely the one I’d pick after driving them back-to-back.

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I also had the privilege of being driven around the street-track by Neal Bates. It will suffice to say I thought I was going to die several times not because I didn’t have faith in his driving, but because I didn’t think the laws of physics allowed what happened. At one point over a crest we were at least a foot in the air with the whole car, in third, right before a sharp right. Apologies to Neal for being a bitch in the passenger seat.

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Later on, we had the opportunity to ask Tada-san a few questions. Between us journos we managed to squeeze a few juicy bits regarding Toyota’s future sports car direction. Eventually there will be 3 sports cars to round out the range, with the 86 taking the middle spot. The new Supra concepts are currently in development and the intent with them will be similar to the 86 – driver enjoyment as the focus, rather than outright speed. This is pretty much a polar opposite to the Nissan GT-R. One Supra concept from bullfinch.se:

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But what I’m really curious about is what the little one will be! Perhaps a hatchback? Or something more wild?

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There remains a bright future for the 86. A convertible is still in the plans, as are special variants on the original.

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Toyota has so far tested a couple of combinations: an 86 with 50kW more power, and one with 100kg less weight. The decision was unanimous that the lighter version was a lot more fun to drive. And on that same note, a TRD concept has already been built – with 227kg less weight, bringing it under a tonne! This “superleggera” version is the one I’d be REALLY keen to get my hands on. Maybe it’d look something like this.

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If they made THAT in a convertible version, I’d be all over it like a rash.

Thanks go to Toyota for organising an incredible experience, and letting us share it with DS members!

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Words: Matyas Fulop | Images: Toyota Motor Corporation

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