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Move over, Supra, there’s a new hero sports car coming to Toyota’s showrooms - and it’s taking aim at the biggest names in performance, including Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin.
Unveiled at the recent Tokyo Auto Salon, the Toyota GR GT3 Concept is, as the name implies, a concept… but only for now. While its striking looks claimed the attention of initial reports, it doesn’t take much digging to see what this really is and why it represents such a big deal to Toyota and its Gazoo Racing brand.
While Toyota was vague on the details, the GR GT3 Concept is clearly not just a Supra with a bodykit on it, with notably different proportions and unique styling. This suggests that Toyota is preparing an all-new sports car that will sit above the GR Supra, to take on the biggest names in the business.
Toyota even hinted as such in its official release on the car, drawing a connection between the GR Yaris project, which saw the company create a specific three-door, wide-body model for its World Rally Championship program.
“As was the case with the GR Yaris, by commercializ=sing motorsports cars rather than simply adapting production vehicles for use in motorsports,” Toyota’s statement read, “TGR intends to use feedback and technologies refined through participation in various motorsports activities to develop both GT3 and mass-production cars and further promote making ever-better motorsports-bred cars.”
For those unfamiliar, GT3 isn’t just the name of a Porsche 911 model but a category of an international motor racing that caters to sports cars like the 911, Ferrari 488, Mercedes-AMG GT, Audi R8 and Honda NSX. It’s the category that’s used for the top class of the annual Bathurst 12-hour race, but from 2024 it will become the default global ‘GT’ racing, including the famous Le Mans 24-hours.
Crucially, the category is based around production vehicles, not concepts or prototypes, so if Toyota wants to compete, it will need to offer a road-going version of its GT3 racer to the public.
This is why Toyota would need to build a new sports car and cannot enter a bespoke racing car like the GR GT3. What is still unclear at this stage is whether Toyota would look for a partner for such a project, as it has done for the GR Supra and GR 86, or go it alone to further demonstrate the strength of the Gazoo Racing business.
Building up Gazoo Racing has been a major project for Toyota in the last decade. That’s in large part because Gazoo Racing is the personal project of Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s global president. He believes in racing improving both the brand’s image but also the handling of its cars.
Under his reign, Gazoo Racing has superseded Toyota Racing Development (TRD) as the company’s global performance division, and it oversees all motorsport activities for Toyota and Lexus.
The brand has expanded its production car range too, introducing the GR Supra and GR Yaris, with the GR 86 coming later in 2022. But this is expected to only be the beginning with a GR Corolla, GR HiLux and even a revived MR2 (with electric power) all tipped to arrive in the next few years.
Toyota would need to introduce a production version of the GR GT3 Concept by 2024 in order to race at blue riband events like Le Mans and Bathurst. Based on the concept, it seems likely it will be a front-engined, rear-wheel drive GT coupe, possibly powered by a turbocharged V8 engine that the company has been rumoured to have been working on in recent years.
Something like that would certainly fit the bill of a potential rival to the likes of the 911, AMG GT, Aston Martin Vantage and similar. And if it could compete with those types of cars, even if it didn’t outsell them but simply matched up as a potential rival, that would be a major boost to the image of Toyota and Gazoo Racing.
And if you think a Porsche-rivalling Toyota sports car (that’s likely to cost north of $150k) sounds far-fetched, what would you have said five years ago if someone told you Toyota would sell a $50k Yaris…