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The Toyota Motorsport Story

A motorsport history spanning 57 years

Our motorsport story began in 1957, when we completed the torturous Round Australia Rally. Since then, we have competed at the highest level of world motorsport, and succeeded in a wide variety of disciplines.

The perfect test-bed

Since that first Toyopet Crown model crossed the finish line in Australia, having completed an exhausting 17,000km in 19 days, our motorsport activities have proven to be the perfect test-bed for new technologies, materials and know-how, which filter down to road-going Toyotas.

Toyopet Crown Deluxe
The early years

Just 12 years after the end of World War II, Japan was in the middle of remarkable economic growth. Its automobile industry was in its infancy with imported cars far out-numbering home produced, and manufacturing quality was still not at the same level. As a result, only a small minority in Japan had an interest in motorsport.

Even so, a request came from the Japanese Consulate in Australia, through the Foreign Ministry, for a Japanese auto manufacturer to enter that year’s Round Australia Rally. Toyota responded, and Kunio Kaminomura, with Koujiro Kondo alongside him, took the wheel of our unproven 1.5-litre Crown saloon for 19 punishing days.

Remarkably, a car heavily weighed down with extra fuel and spare parts, and with only 48 horsepower under the bonnet, completed the entire course without any major problems. Finishing a respectable 47th position overall, the Crown made it to the end, unlike 34 other cars from the 86 strong field, and we became the first Japanese car manufacturer to enter world motorsport.

Toyopet Crown completes the Round Australia Rally
Laying the foundations

With increased enthusiasm for motorsport in Japan, and Toyotas hitting circuits around the globe, the swinging sixties was an exciting new chapter for Toyota and Japanese racing fans.

Towards the end of the 1960s, sports car racing was changing. Cars were being fitted with ever-larger capacity engines and to stay competitive we produced our first purpose built racer in 1968: the Toyota 7. This first version, with its 3-litre V8 engine mounted centrally in the chassis was soon replaced with a 5-litre model that went on to finish a fine third in the 1969 Japanese Grand Prix.

Then came the 1970s and car manufacturers focus began to shift away from racing. Anti-pollution policies were high on all the major car manufacturers agendas, and this resulted in the 1970 Japanese Grand Prix being cancelled, and with it our development of sports cars with large capacity engines. This was a real disappointment for Toyota racing fans the world over, as we had just released the world’s first turbo-powered racing car: the Toyota 7 Turbo.

Worse was to come in 1973, as war in the Middle East triggered an international oil shortage that prompted many manufacturers to suspend racing. Having competed in touring car races since 1968, with the Corona model, this category became our focus, and we developed other road-going models to compete, such as the Corolla Levin, Starlet, and Celica Turbo which finished first in the 1973 Fuji 1000km race.

Toyota 7 Turbo
Entering the world stage

After a difficult and unstable period in the early part of the 1970s, Japanese racing had a lot to look forward to. The first Formula 1 World Championship Grand Prix to be held in Japan took place at the Fuji Speedway in 1976 and 1977, and Formula 2 and Group C series races were well established in the country.

During the early 1980s, our domestic racing activities consisted mainly of supporting private teams and club racers, but it was overseas that we were increasingly gaining momentum.

In the World Rally Championship, our Corolla and Celica models were proving very competitive. Notable victories such as the Safari Rally in East Africa and a one-two finish in New Zealand formed the basis for a successful decade of rallying.

In 1982 we began competing in the North American based International Motorsport Association series (IMSA), winning the GT class championship with the Celica Turbo in 1987.

Back home, a new interTEC series for Group A touring cars had been established and was being hotly contested by Toyota-affiliated teams. Our Group A Supra Turbo enjoyed great success in this series with teams such as TOMS, which also entered the legendary Le Mans 24 Hour race in 1985.

Celica Twin-cam Turbo
Between a flurry of championships

The late 1980s and early 1990s was a hugely popular time for world rallying. Fans loved that their idols were driving cars based on the production models they could buy in a showroom. Our Group A entry was the Celica GT-four which became increasingly successful, winning the Drivers’ Championship in 1990 and 1992, followed by both manufacturers’ and drivers titles in 1993 and 1994.

Away from the mud and gravel of the World Rally Championship (WRC), we were competing on both sides of the Atlantic on circuits in endurance racing, and IMSA-GTP, the North American equivalent. In 1989, we began competing in the World Sport Prototype Championship and battled hard around the world’s circuits against Peugeot’s 905. Another notable achievement soon after was a fine second place in the 1993 Le Mans 24 Hour race.

Through 1992 and 1993, the North American IMSA-GTP series was dominated by Dan Gurney’s AAR Eagle Toyota, who fought hard against other major manufacturer’s cars.

Back in Japan, the new All Japan Touring Car Championship began in 1994, with 2-litre four door saloons competing over two short sprint races. We won the maiden championship with a Corona model, and once more in 1998, with a Chaser, which proved to be the final year of the series.

Celica GT-Four
Prestigious titles

Since 1975, Toyota Team Europe (TTE), under the direction of Ove Anderson, had been responsible for our World Rally Championship activities. In 1998, TTE shifted its focus to competing in the Le Mans 24 Hours race, although it nevertheless won our third WRC Manufacturers’ Championship in 1999.

After an impressive debut in 1998, the innovative TS020 was denied victory in the 1999 race through bad luck, although it did finish in second position after starting from pole. As one of the first racing cars to be developed completely by computer-aided design, the TS020 was one of the most advanced racing cars on the world stage.

A few years earlier in 1996, we became an engine supplier to the CART Champ Car series in North America. After tasting victory for the first time in 2000, it took a further two years before Cristiano Da Matta scooped our first drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles in the series. A year later, in 2003, we moved our supply across to the competing Indy Racing League where we made an immediate impression by winning the drivers’ title.

The icing on a very successful 2003, was Gil de Ferran’s victory at the prestigious Indy 500 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a first for a Japanese engine manufacturer.

Toyota TS020 GT1
A new challenge

After success in some of the most prestigious motorsport events around the globe, in January 1999, we decided to enter the cutting-edge world of Formula 1 (F1).

Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG), the successor to TTE was appointed to lead our F1 activities from its base in Cologne, Germany. Following successes in WRC and Le Mans 24 Hours, TMG initially undertook all chassis and engine design in Cologne, but the F1 programme was soon strengthened when engineers at our R&D department in Japan worked closer with the team.


Over nine hard-fought seasons in F1 we achieved several pole and podium positions, but disappointingly missed out on that elusive win. Competing against teams with vast experience and the very best drivers meant every point we earned in F1 was the result of a huge team effort.

There were several highlights in our nine F1 seasons. From Mika Salo’s impressive sixth place at our first Grand Prix and Cristiano da Matta leading the British Grand Prix a year later, to both cars qualifying as high as third that year. But it was in 2005, with a driver pairing of Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli, in a car that was performing well in the races, that we recorded our best results. Our first pole position, along with consistent point-scoring finishes and an impressive fourth place in the Constructor’s World Championship, proved that we were competing with the best in the world.

The TF109 of 2009, which was fast from the very start of the season, proved to be the last car in our F1 campaign. Our focus would now return to endurance racing and the 2012 World Endurance Championship (WEC).

Toyota TF107
A new era of motorsport

Returning to a championship that included the legendary race at Le Mans was one thing, but building a car that allowed us to showcase our hybrid technology, meant the revival of the WEC was the perfect fit for our racing activities.

Now under the guise of TOYOTA Racing, the new TS030 HYBRID wowed fans with its petrol hybrid technology in the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Storing electrical energy generated under braking in a super-capacitor, this 300 horsepower electric-boost could be deployed under acceleration from corners to complement petrol power.

Making use of TMG’s two wind tunnels, the TS030 HYBRID was designed so that all areas of the car were as aerodynamically efficient as possible. Racing on a wide variety of circuits throughout the year, it would need to perform at speeds as high as 330 km/h at Le Mans, and below 100 km/h on twisty bends at Interlagos, where downforce and grip are key.

Now in 2014, after 57 years of motorsport twists and turns, we find ourselves at the forefront of a new era of motorsport, one that is built around a technology now powering over six million Toyota Hybrid drivers.


After two successful seasons in WEC, that saw us collect five wins, six poles and four fastest laps, we begin the 2014 campaign full of confidence with our new challenger: The TS040 HYBRID.

Representing the most advanced hybrid technology in racing by combining an impressive 480PS of four-wheel-drive hybrid boost, with 520PS from the 3.7-litre petrol engine, our drivers now have a maximum power of 1000PS at their disposal.

Winning the first two rounds of the 2014 FIA WEC season, TOYOTA Racing fans the world over have been rewarded with the best possible start to the season. With the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours race next up on the calendar, the TOYOTA Racing team will be full of confidence as they prepare for the biggest race of the year.


Let’s hope these wins are the first of many for the team as we begin a new chapter in the history of Toyota motorsport...

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