The Toyota 86 Racing Series is entering it’s second year of competition in 2017, after a highly competitive first season with 46 drivers contesting the series over the 5 Rounds in 2016. Recently the Toyota 86 Racing Series (T86RS) launched its 2017 season with an open test and practice day at Sydney Motorsport Park. A time for last seasons competitors to blow out the off-season cobwebs to re-familiarise with the machine, to fresh new drivers/ teams that are coming to grips and learning the ins and outs of how to extract the most speed of their 86’s. The series popularity with motorsport fans and the spectators exploded during its first season, with almost half a million spectators at race events and a television viewership of 1.77 million in 2016. Viewers were keen on watching the super close wheel to wheel racing that made people sit on the edge of their seats, not knowing what was going to happen just around the next corner. Be it with the new up and coming stars who are still in high school taking on seasoned professionals whom were thrown into the mix to help set a benchmark for the drivers. The top drivers were being closely watched by teams up and down pitlane in the higher categories at the events, who like to see the up and coming talent.2016 Toyota 86 Racing Series Champion Will Brown made the big jump up to the Supercars Super2 Series with the Eggleston Motorsport showing great pace in his first event in Adelaide. Will beat out 2016 V8Ute Champion David Seiders who finished in 2nd ahead of Cameron Hill. Notably all round nice guy Tim Brooks and young gun Aaron Seton finished 4th and 5th. With Will out of the picture this year, there will be a lot of drivers who will be wanting to be atop of that podium come seasons end in Newcastle. Only 2 tracks from the 2016 season remain in 2017, with Sydney Motorsport Park and Bathurst staying on the calendar. The new tracks for this year include Phillip Island, Townsville and the new street track in Newcastle. With 3 traditional circuits and 2 street circuits, the drivers better have their wits about them, and maybe their panel beater on speed dial as these tracks are some of the more demanding tracks in Australia that will test their skills to the extreme. While there is a lot of changes going on within the teams and the calendar, the cars won’t be changing much in the second season. Only a small issue was identified and ironed out with a new clutch & flywheel package being brought to the series. Though it really came down to the mechanical sympathy of the driver to make the parts last.

Toyota 86 Racing Series competition components

Engine Motec M150 Electronic Control Unit, TRD engine oil cooler, baffled sump pan, modified throttle stop
Exhaust Neal Bates Motorsport custom – 86 Track Spec
Suspension MCA adjustable front and rear coil-over damping system
Wheels 18-inch OZ ‘Asfalto’ alloy rims
Tyres Dunlop Direzza DZII*86 – 225/40R18
Brakes Upgraded rotors (330mm front / 316mm rear) and AP Racing callipers (four-piston front / two-piston rear)
Body T86RS-specific rear spoiler
Safety T86RS-compliant roll-cage, CAMS-compliant race seat and multi-point harness

Interesting Toyota won’t be introducing the new 2017 Toyota 86 body styling to the series this year or potentially even in 2018, As it would increase the cost for the teams, and Toyota would want all the cars to be looking the same and not a mixed bag of non-facelift and facelift cars on track.

Track action

After the formalities of the morning was finished with, it was time to get the adrenaline pumping and get behind the wheel. This time we would get to attack the full 3.93km flowing GP circuit at Sydney Motorsport Park. I hadn’t driven a proper race car on the full GP circuit previously but had done a handful of laps in a mates Renault Megane. After some mingling around the impressive collection of Toyota rally & circuit cars and catching up with the other media, ex-racers and staff, it was time to put the camera down and grab my helmet for a handful of laps. Nervous, yet excited I waited for the car that I would be driving to come in from its previous run, and hoping no hidden surprises awaited on the seat. I would actually be lucky enough to have Harry Bates as my instructor for the laps, who days before became the youngest winner in history of an Australian Rally Championship round, steering his S2000 Toyota Corolla to victory at Rally Eureka in Ballarat, down in Victoria. It was a rollercoaster of a weekend for the team, with his younger brother Lewis’ FWD Corolla running off the road and becoming beached on the 2nd stage of the event. Unable to get the car out, the dry bush underneath caught fire and the crew + other drivers were unsuccessful in putting the fire out which caused the car to burn to the ground. Lewis and his co-driver were unharmed but shaken up, as it was his first event contesting the full ARC Championship. Such a bittersweet moment for such a young gun looking to pave his way in the ARC. As I managed to climb in through the full roll cage, and get strapped into the seat, which was fairly snug, I had a quick chat with Harry while waiting to head out. A quick thumbs up to make sure I was comfortable and it was time to hit the track.It was great to be able to drive the car safely on the limit around the track, as it had the same characteristics as the road car has with having to keep the momentum up and driving it fast and smooth to get the speed out of it. Also having Harry refine your driving as we went around the track was invaluable, and I was seeing a lot of thumbs up from him around the track. Be it nailing a late braking while heel and toeing, Or getting the power on early onto the front straight which leads to a corner that is right up there as one of the quickest in the country and balancing the right line and speed through the demanding corner which has caught out many before and will continue to. After only a handful of laps, just like that it was time to come back in. Sure it was only 4 laps but lapping around the track sure beats a normal days work. The main thing with these drives is to bring the car back in one piece, and keep the instructor happy which was a success on both accounts. Now like anyone who is involved somehow in racing you just wish that you were out on track racing. So until I find that magical money tree, I guess I’ll have to be happy being at the track shooting the racing, and that we get the chance to appreciate these moments where we get to drive on track and get that adrenaline pumping.

Thanks again to Toyota for inviting us out for the launch of the new 2017 Series and I wish the series, teams and drivers the best of luck as they attack the 5 rounds of the 2017 Toyota 86 Racing Series.

*Additional photos provided by Toyota Australia and Jack Martin Photography.