When I received the invite for the official media launch of the Toyota 86 Racing Series launch, its safe to say I was excited. None of us were completely sure what was in store, except for the possible fact we were going to get to drive a new breed of race car, the Toyota 86.
On arrival to Sydney Motorsport Park they had a few motoring legends parked out the front like a Mk3 Supra, AE86 and more.
I was greeted by all the friendly Toyota staff, after getting all the brief introductions out of the way they pointed out I was early and the first to arrive, so I headed to grab a coffee. I got to chatting with the dignitaries from Toyota about the exciting plans that were in store for the season, and it wasn’t long before more personalities started arriving like Grant Salter, Justin Fox, Andrew Ryan and Matthew Everingham just to name a few.
We all wandered around snapping pics and catching up, before being ushered back in for lunch and a presentation from Toyota’s Executive Director of Sales and Marketing, Mr Tony Cramb about the undeniable success of the Toyota 86.
Aftrwards, we were taken into “Garage 86” where they had an off-the-shelf 86 and a track-built version on display, while being treated to a speech from Neil Crompton about the nitty gritty of the vehicle upgrades.
Then the fun began! We were put behind the wheel of the OEM version for a few laps of the South Circuit to start off with. Being my first drive in an 86 I was pleasantly surprised with the responsiveness and stability and could see why they were such a popular vehicle.
As I found myself climbing in through the fully welded rollcage and strapping my harness on, I knew this was about to be a totally different thing. As we sat waiting for the go signal from the marshalls, it was clear this car was built to move.
I pushed it much harder than the standard trim model, and I could only imagine a full pack of these ripping around the track and immediately felt jealous of all those that are entered into the competition series!
I thought the fun was over, but you should’ve seen my face light up when we were told hot laps were up next. The guys pointed to one car:
“Adam, you’re in the blue one”.
I happily put my helmet on and climbed through the cage once more and was greeted the driver:
“Hi, I’m Neal. You’re Adam from Downshift?”
And then it hit me: I’m sitting in a track-spec Toyota 86 about to get catapulted around the track with the great Neal Bates!
We quickly bonded over both being from Canberra, before being slingshotted onto the track just mere inches away from Leanne Tander battling fiercely, I was then reminded of Neal’s motorsport history and skill as he started stepping the back end out and pushing the car to its absolute limits.
A few laps were over before I knew it, and I thanked the man for the joyride. No more coffee was needed after this!
As the day came to a close, we were given some goodies and thanked Toyota for having us. It goes without saying that there was no hesitation at the suggestion of us being willing to be involved with the season as it progresses!
Thanks again the team at Toyota Australia for the opportunity!
More information on the series can be found at: www3.toyota.com.au/86/racing-series