When you think about Toyota, the first thought that comes to your mind is likely that of consumer-grade automobiles. Sedans, SUVs, hybrids, and the like have all been continuous parts of Toyota’s success. However, Toyota also has a rich history of building high-performance cars and competing in professional motorsports. Its top-level team is Gazoo Racing, and behind the helm is none other than Akio Toyoda, the current president of Toyota. The manufacturer is well documented for raising the bar, and carving out a foothold in the realm of motorsports was the perfect opportunity for envisioning the future. The history of Toyota Gazoo Racing is a fascinating one, and it’s a neat piece of history to take with you when you visit your local Toyota dealership.
The phrase “Roads Build People and Cars” resonates with Toyota and is used to indicate its promise for a better future for all drivers. We’ll discuss what this truly means momentarily, but what you should know is that this leap into motorsports wasn’t a quick one, and it wouldn’t be until the early 1970s when Toyota would first appear in a professional race. At this point, the focus was on rally racing, which remained the main focus until the 1980s when Toyota would begin expanding into other facets of professional motorsports such as NASCAR, Formula 1, and much more.
Fast forward to the year 2009, and one of the business executives on the board of directors was given the reins to the presidency of Toyota, Akio Toyoda. As it would turn out, Mr. Toyoda was arguably Toyota’s biggest fan in the motorsport scene as the sport was an avid interest of his since his youth. While Toyota’s foray into motorsports is too large to condense into one discussion, we’ll tell you a few interesting details that you may not know.
A Subsidiary is Formed
Founded in 2007, Toyota Gazoo Racing is a subsidiary of Toyota that focuses on everything motorsport. Toyota Gazoo Racing, abbreviated to GR for short, started as a team of test drivers and mechanics. One of these drivers was, you guessed it, Mr. Toyoda. Part of Toyota’s DNA will forever be cemented in motorsport vehicles, and this subsidiary would help them focus on multiple projects at once. Rally racing, which was Toyota’s entry into the motorsport scene, is still actively participated in today. However, there was a moment where this wasn’t the case, and a lengthy hiatus of about seventeen years would pass before Toyota would re-enter the scene with vehicles still being engineered for races to this day.
Mr. Toyda was, and still is, highly enthusiastic about Toyota’s motorsport history, and rightfully so, considering that he’s played a significant role in the creation of Gazoo Racing. Perhaps the team’s greatest achievement came at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans, a race that is designed to test the endurance of its contestants and their automobiles. Toyota would get its first Le Mans win in 2018, but that wouldn’t be all. Toyota has now claimed four consecutive wins at Le Mans, putting its name alongside manufacturers like Porsche, Audi, and Ferrari. Toyota claims that a 24-hour race is a recipe to success because the limits of a vehicle can’t be found until it’s under the stress of such an occasion.
Le Mans isn’t the only endurance track that Gazoo Racing would tackle, as these 24-hour races are an important part of who they are. An example of this is the Nürburgring 24 Hours, another revered race. Toyota had appeared in this race before, back in 1970, but its return to the track wouldn’t be for decades after that. Back when Toyota first appeared in this race, it was a 6-hour endurance race, and behind the wheel of a Celica 1600GT was Mr. Hiromu Naruse, who had become a regular of sorts at the race track.
Holding a crucial role at Toyota, Mr. Naruse was the soul behind Toyota’s motorsport scene. He remained at the company into his sixties, providing help with test driving Toyota’s newest racing vehicles into the twenty-first century. But unfortunately, he was the victim of a test-drive mishap that claimed his life in 2010. Not only was this exactly forty years after he first raced in Nürburgring, but it was also three years after the official formation of Gazoo Racing. His death left a large impact on the world of motorsports, and especially on Toyota itself.
Toyoda and Toyota
As we mentioned earlier, Mr.Toyoda is quite enthusiastic about motorsports, so much so that he’s one of the drivers that make up Gazoo Racing. In the 2010s, an idea was conceived to put the durability of its automobiles to the ultimate test: a cross-continental race. However, it wouldn’t simply stop at one continent, and as of today, Toyoda and Gazoo Racing have raced across five continents within six years. These five continents were tackled one by one, and driving across 71% of Earth’s land is not a small feat by any means. This leaves two continents that have yet to be traveled, including Asia, and of course, Antarctica. We’ll let that last one slide for now.
This concept of traveling the world was headed by none other than Mr. Toyoda, and this adventure was given the title of “Akio’s Drive,” and appropriately so. That phrase that we mentioned earlier about “Roads Build People and Cars” is the true meaning behind Akio’s Drive. Starting in 2014, Gazoo Racing traveled across Australia. Australia was likely chosen due to its size. After all, it’s the smallest continent in the world. Next up was North America, and Gazoo Racing was divided into four teams to tackle different regions of the continent. The trip, including the break they took in Autumn, lasted between June and September of 2015.
Each year, the continents that Gazoo Racing chose to drive across increased in size, with North America being followed by South America, a journey that took them two and a half months to complete, with an estimated 12,684 miles of roads traveled. When Gazoo Racing crossed Europe, they divided into three teams that would travel about 13,000 miles through the continent, and each team took between twenty-five to thirty days to complete their routes. And lastly, Africa, the second-largest continent in the world, was driven by Toyota. This route spanned 6,600 miles, and the two teams completed their journeys in about twenty-five days.
All About Comradery
What we can take away from Gazoo Racing is that Toyota, whether working on consumer vehicles or motorsport legends, is mindful of comradery. That’s the true importance behind Gazoo Racing. “Teamwork makes the dream work” is a saying that gets thrown around a lot these days, but in the case of Toyota, it’s what got it to where it is today. Whether we’re talking about the enthusiastic and skillful driver that is Toyota’s President, Mr. Toyoda, or about the legendary Mr. Naruse, who still inspires Japanese racers today, Toyota is in the history books for more reasons than one. To put things simply, Toyota is unlike your average manufacturer, and that’s because their forte is durability. In the end, this is something that translates down to the automobiles that you can find at your local dealer, so keep this in mind when you begin shopping for your new Toyota vehicle.