The AE86 made a big ping on the auto enthusiast radar and continues to enchant JDM fans to this day. Those who respect their automotive elders, but want to keep pace with with the times, now look to the Toyota GT86.
Hardcore fans lamented the Scion FRS nomenclature, but with Scion fading away, a rebranding to set things right is underway. It’s no secret that these cars are hugely popular for their handling, aggressive looks, and sporty RWD layout. An obvious contender to the Mazda MX5, the GT86 is a favored platform for grassroots level racing.
“Obviously we’re going through the crossover point of Scion becoming part of the history books, including the FRS becoming the ’86. Fortunately when you get a manual transmission ’86 you get more horsepower, better torque and handling than an FRS,” Dan Gardner of Toyota assured us.
This year at SEMA 2016, Toyota Motorsports trotted out a treat for the American market, the GT86-CS cup car. There is not a Toyota equivalent to the Mazda MX5 Championship here in the US, but our friends across the pond have been enjoying just that for a while now.
“There’s a spec series over in Europe for this GT86-CS cup car, teams that want to race in it but the cars that TMG (Toyota Motorsports Germany) builds. They keep the essence of the cars but they are quite a lot lighter, have a function rear wing, engine mapping for horsepower and flat foot shifting, Eibach springs and P-Zero racing slicks,” Gardner continued.
Just like the factory-prepared MX5 cup car, the GT86-CS is fully built to compete. The legacy of AE86 performance has now found a fitting outlet to continue on. The spirit of the car remains, but every system gets a little massaging. There’s only one problem, we can’t get these stateside!
“It’s everything that the FRS or ’86 is, but amped up. It’s the first time that we’re showing one in the United States because we don’t have that series here right now. Unlike the Prius G, there are a variety of things being considered, nothing is committed but Toyota is considering a variety of things and will continue to be excited about people doing things at the grassroots level,” Gardner explained.
At face value, the GT85-CS doesn’t look like more than a gutted shell with some suspension and safety equipment — but Toyota Motorsports Germany went much further than skin deep on this car.
Reinforcements in the jacking point, and strut towers lay the foundation to support the Bilstein two-way adjustable suspension. Braking comes care of Alcon 4-piston fronts and Performance Friction brake pads.
TMG worked over the engine with a performance exhaust and ECU tuning on the GT86 to include flat foot shifting and rev-matching. The 2.0-liter mill ultimately outputs 212 horsepower at 7,600 rpm.
“Toyota Motorsports GmbH built this car from the ground up specifically for Toyota Motorsports USA for SEMA and beyond. It’s extremely well-finished, it’s not radical in any particular way, but it’s a proper racecar in all the finishing work from the welds to dash and fire system integration,” Gardner pointed out.
Gardner isn’t just representing the GT86-CS for Toyota, but as an ambassador to aspiring drivers, he is a specialist in FWD road racecars and an instructor for numerous organizations.
“I still instruct for BMW, SCCA, NASA, NARA. It’s still good to give something back and help people learn how to drive cars on the racetrack. We’re building things all the time, I’ve been to 20 racetracks this year. It’s something that we’re still heavily involved in – especially the testing side of making a car work right or understand,” he concluded.
The MX5 Championship offers an impressive scholarship program for aspiring drivers, to see an OEM like Toyota step up and enter the motorsports arena in a similar fashion would be fantastic for the sport. For now we will have to watch the Germans run rings in the GT86-CS.