TOYOTA GAZOO RACING
Pushing the Limits for Better
“TOYOTA GAZOO Racing” embodies Toyota’s commitment to overcome every limit to make ever-better cars through motorsport activities. “What we learn at the very limits of performance, we seek to transfer into benefits for every day driving.”
Over the years, Toyota has been participating in many different forms of motorsport, including Formula One, the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the Nürburgring 24 Hours endurance race. These activities were conducted by separate entities within the company, such as “Toyota Racing”, “Lexus Racing” and “GAZOO Racing”.
Of those, “GAZOO Racing” in particular first entered the Nürburgring 24 Hours race in 2007 with two used Altezzas, supported by a team of mechanics that comprised employees selected from various departments within Toyota, under the belief that “the roads build the people, and the people build the cars”.
This was very much in line with the thinking of Toyota’s founder, Kiichiro Toyoda, who said already in 1952: “Motorsport is more than just entertainment. It is vital to the development of the car industry. Just as athletes test their capabilities by competing with all their strength in the Olympics, automakers use racing as an opportunity to push a vehicle’s performance to the limits and compete for supremacy, enabling them to discover new ways of advancing automotive technology.
”With this in mind, in April 2015, Toyota went back to the basis and united Toyota’s motorsports activities into “TOYOTA GAZOO Racing”, placing motorsports as a fundament in its commitment to make ever-better cars.Toyota’s technology has been further improved through participation in races, and has translated into improving its road cars. Between its first FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) race in 2012 and winning the championship in 2014, the experience with the highly performant powertrain featured in the TS030 and TS040 HYBRID LMP1 race cars significantly progressed the development of hybrid powertrain technology for its road-going models in areas such as downsizing and motor cooling.
By participating in motorsport activities Toyota has broadened its knowledge by stepping out of its comfort zone. Through these experiences it has been able to improve its skills, resulting in further development of human resources.
Last but not least, through motorsports, Toyota conveys the excitement of driving to its customers and fans, and shares its passion with them.
With Toyota’s return to the World Rally Championship in 2017, “TOYOTA GAZOO Racing” has singled out another highly demanding series where it will push its cars to the limit, in the pursuit of “Ever Better Cars”.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing activities in Europe
FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC)The FIA World Endurance Championship includes endurance races of six hours or more in various locations throughout Europe, the US, and Asia. Most notable is the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one leg of the Triple Crown of Motorsport and the most prominent event in endurance racing.TOYOTA has participated in Le Mans eighteen times since its first entry in 1985 and came extremely close to victory in the 2016 race. One of the TS050 HYBRID LMP1 race cars led convincingly until the final minutes of the 24-hour race before a heart-breaking retirement with victory in sight. The sister car finished in a consolatory second position.
Taking on Le Mans requires both exceptional speed and reliability, and TOYOTA GAZOO Racing continues to push ahead on this challenge by refining its hybrid system with ever-more sophisticated technologies. This hybrid system was developed in-house at Toyota, with members of the development team participating in the race as well. The team is made up of a diverse group of people - all of different ages and with different levels of experience - but everyone is on the same page when it comes to their common goal of “making ever-better cars”.
Nürburgring 24 Hours Race
Every year, factory-backed and privateer teams across the globe take on “the world’s toughest race” at the Nürburgring. This year marked TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s tenth participation in the event as the team entered a Lexus RC, a Lexus RC F and the Toyota C-HR Racing.
Among a total race field of 158 cars, the Toyota C-HR Racing took 84th place in the overall standings and finished third in its class. In addition, the Lexus RC retired due to drivetrain issues, while the Lexus RC F took 24th place overall and finished first in its class.
The Nürburgring 24 Hours race plays an important role in helping Toyota to train ever-better personnel through the active involvement of mechanics, engineers and test drivers from Toyota’s road-car divisions.The goal of Toyota’s participation remains exactly the same as it was a decade ago: engage in demanding motorsports and incorporate the insights gained in its quest to “make ever-better cars”.
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)
From smooth asphalt to rough, unpaved roads, the FIA World Rally Championship is a merciless and riveting high-speed chase through nearly every type of public road in the world. Drivers must instantly judge the road conditions in each country in this high-impact, full-throttle challenge.But building world rally cars is about far more than just theory. It’s about crafting a vehicle that can be driven to the limit on each and every type of road, based on thorough first-hand experience and knowledge. With this in mind, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing has decided to take on the WRC in 2017.With Tommi Mäkinen spearheading the project, the Yaris WRC is nearing completion. The team is comprised of highly dedicated specialists who are passionate about rally racing. “The most important ingredient in creating a winning vehicle is to have a group of people with the same goal who all find joy in what they do,” says Mäkinen. “We want to show the world a team coming together under Toyota’s ‘I love cars!’ spirit as we work diligently towards our goals.”
What is the purpose of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing?
Mr Saga: The purpose of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is quite straightforward, and goes back to the basic question of why we participate in motorsport.Our founder, Kiichiro Toyoda, left us a written text saying that “motorsports are vital to the evolution of car making and the entire auto industry”. Once you accept this principle, it is clear that motorsport is both very important, and always necessary. It is not something to pick up when times are good or drop when times are hard.That is why, last year, we decided to get back to this founding ideal and united Toyota’s motorsports activities under “TOYOTA GAZOO Racing”, clarifying the role of Toyota’s motor-sports to make ever-better cars. We also established the “TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Factory”, which includes motorsports-related marketing, vehicle development and technical support functions, previously all managed by individual divisions. By doing so, we are placing motorsports once again centrally, to develop better technology, to nurture our people and to reach out to our many fans around the world.
What role has the Nürburgring 24 Hour race played in the evolution of TOYOTA GAZOO Racing?
Mr Tomoyama: The Nürburgring 24 Hours race was the starting point for GAZOO Racing. In 2007, we had our first race at Nürburgring as GAZOO Racing. It was not easy because the team was not well known in Europe and we had a very low budget. We started with two used Altezza (the Japanese version of Lexus IS). People participated voluntarily and all the modifications to the car were done by our staff. Even half of the drivers were made up of our own staff, including our President Mr. Akio Toyoda himself, who still provides his full support.Every year since then, we have taken promising young engineers and mechanics from our various R&D divisions and have placed them into our team for the Nürburgring 24 Hours. At the end of the year, they return to their original divisions with the new experience and knowledge that they gathered throughout the development of that year’s race car and during the race itself, which they then share with their colleagues, ultimately aiming to build better production cars.
Can you explain what you mean by ever-better cars?
Mr Saga: Personally, I am confident that, at Toyota, we already make good cars. But our objective and purpose is to continually make our cars better. That means better technology, better functionality, and cars that are ultimately more user-friendly, more fun to drive and more secure. At the same time, we have many strict regulations worldwide when it comes to the environment, which we strive to meet.For example, we’re already on track with our hybrid systems, but they must also be capable of delivering a sporty driving experience. It’s a kind of dream for me personally, to have everyday hybrid road cars that provide comfort but are equally engaging to drive on a track.
You both also have other roles within Toyota Motor Corporation, with Mr Saga as Chairman of the Power Train Company and Mr Tomoyama as President of the Connected Company. How do they relate to your motorsport roles?
Mr Saga: I used to be an engine designer, and the last engine I designed was the Century V12. I am a firm believer that our activities in the WEC are beneficial for our company. WEC wants to have hybrid cars participating in its series, and we are the leader of hybrid cars in the market, so there is a natural fit. When we think of the future, we have to get even better in this field, so what better platform than the WEC to create ever-better hybrid cars.
Mr Tomoyama: Race cars are already connected through detailed telematics systems, but IT, IoT (Internet of Things) and connectivity are very important technologies that have to be implemented in our future cars.Cars need to be secure and user-friendly, particularly with an ageing population; however, we don’t want to produce boring cars with all this IT stuff. “Fun to drive” is a key promise we want to deliver to all our customers. We are looking at how technology can help make cars both fun to drive as well as secure and user-friendly - and our learning from motorsport can help us in this regard.
What does success look like for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing?
Mr Saga: We have a number of short-term goals, such as winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans and becoming champions in the WRC once again. But just as importantly, we want to convey the GAZOO spirit in all that we do. We want to take things step by step and achieve small successes, but there is no ultimate goal because it’s a never-ending challenge.
The meaning of GAZOO
Today, “GAZOO” refers to the word “Garage”, a very intimate place where people work together to improve the smallest details, with the aim of delivering ever-better cars and services for each customer, in each garage. As such, the name embodies the spirit that drives TOYOTA GAZOO Racing.
But the origin of the name goes back nearly twenty years to the creation of GAZOO.com, a website gathering images of the vehicles on stock at each of the dealerships.. Its name, “GAZOO”, was derived from the Japanese word “gaz?” which means image or photo. Although the use of imagery on website is commonplace today, it was revolutionary for the automotive industry in Japan in the mid-1990s when internet technology was at its infancy. GAZOO.com offered consumers a wide choice of products, allowing them to find the best deal available, and this is where the philosophy of providing ever-better cars to the Toyota customer originates.