If you’re ever given an opportunity to visit Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG), formerly Toyota Team Europe (TTE), you should definitely take a look at their private museum.
Behind some unsuspicious doors under the massive wind tunnels of the TMG factory lies possibly the most interesting collection of cars in all of Cologne, Germany.
After entering the museum, you are greeted by TTE’s first rally cars to your left (more on those later), right across from many cups and plates that were achieved during several racing series. The first smiles rush over your face before you recognize that a Formula One car is hanging from the ceiling, right between the two massive tubes of the wind turbines. When lowering your view, you will see Toyota’s complete Formula One line-up, and a representative car for each Le Mans LMP1 generation.
When I visited it was only a few weeks after the victory of the TS050 Hybrid at Le Mans, so the winning #8 car was still covered in the debris it picked up during the race.
Moving past the TS040 and TS030 Hybrid race cars, the beautiful Toyota GT-One, or TS020, comes into sight. With its teardrop-shaped body and the massive but elegantly designed rear wing, this is arguably the most appealing endurance race car ever built.
Taking a closer look at the car, you might wonder why there is a tennis ball on the windscreen and how this joke of a windscreen wiper would work during the lightest bit of rain. The answers to these oddities are quite simple: The tennis ball is connected to some protective foam that sits inside the roof scoop. The ball in sight would alarm the driver if the foam is still inside the roof scoop when the car is about to hit the track. The small windscreen wiper – that has zero function left – was attached to the car for qualifying, thus, every bit of wind resistance that was still left by the wiper could be reduced.
The first of the two TS020s in line – which achieved second place at Le Mans in 1999 – had its engine cover removed and allowed a unique glance into the over-engineered 3.6-litre turbo V8. The pushrod suspension that sits right between other engine components and the chassis tubing that is simultaneously used as a wind channel for brake cooling are just two details of this impressive car.
I could go on with the GT-One forever if it wasn’t for another car that impressed me even further. A car with an even bigger detached wing, two cylinders more, but six years older. I’m talking about the 1993 Toyota TS010, a Group C beast with a naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V10 producing an astonishing 640PS. Its brutal appearance in the red and white livery with gold wheels puts every modern endurance race car to shame. The detached double-decker wing has to be one of the most prominent aspects of any Toyota race car ever built to date.
After finishing admiring the impressive endurance race cars, I made my way to the other side of the vault. Careful not to hit my head on any of the tubing of the industrial construct, Toyota Motorsport’s tuning cars come to sight. These were the cars I expected the least. Once presented at the Essen Motorshow in 2012, the Lexus TS650 is probably the most extreme version of the Lexus LS 460L it’s based upon.
Even though the tuning cars are quite outstanding in a normal fashion, this is not an ordinary place, so another not-so-ordinary car caught my attention. And this time it was an electric one – the former record holder for electric race cars at the Nürburgring. In 2012 the TMG EV P002 set a fastest lap time of 7 minutes and 22.329 seconds.
After exiting the World Endurance Championship (WEC), Toyota entered Formula One. A first test car was developed in 2001, equipped with a 2,998cc naturally aspirated V10. Famous drivers for Toyota were Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher who joined the team in 2004 and 2005 respectively. In the later year, Toyota achieved its first podiums – second place finishes in Malaysia and Bahrain, and third placings in Spain, Hungary and China.
Toyota ended its final F1 season in 2009 with five podiums. The actual chassis from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was later signed by all TMG employees of that time.
Toyota’s work with Formula One machines didn’t end immediately, and some were used as tire test cars for Pirelli. Not wearing a livery on their carbon skin and sitting next to some tanks under dim industrial lighting made these cars look even more out of this world.
From Formula One we’re going back in time with a switch to rally. We start in 1972 with the Toyota Celica 1600GT; the 165PS strong TA22 is the first car TTE rallied in Group 2. Being based around the body of a series production car of the 1970s with its original dashboard still in place underlines the variety of racing cars Toyota Motorsport have built during their versatile racing history.
While studying the data sheets of these lifted production-based machines, the drastic increase in power caught my eye. The 1979 Celica Liftback RA40, which drove in Group 4, delivered 230PS. Just four years later, the 1983 Celica TA64, Toyota’s take on the famous Group B, output an astonishing 370PS. Nicknamed the ‘African Queen’, the TA64 dominated the Safari and Ivory Coast rallies.
Even more powerful is the AW11 Toyota MR2-based 222D. This 1986 prototype, developed for the never implemented Group S, delivers up to 600PS. A regulation change axed the plans for this group, so the 222D never made an official appearance.
During the following Group A era, Toyota achieved its first overall victories. In 1990, Carlos Sainz won the driver’s world championship in the Celica ST165. The car presented in the TMG museum was the actual winning car Sainz drove at the 1991 Rally Corsica.
But it was the Celica ST185 that Toyota achieved real success in rally sport with by winning the 1993 and 1994 manufacturer’s world championship. Before quitting WRC in 1999, Toyota secured its third manufacturers title with the Corolla WRC.
After several years, Toyota decided to return and re-entered the championship in 2017 with the Yaris WRC. Since the engines of the rally cars are being developed at TMG, an engine prototype car from 2015 was present as well.
It’s one more car in a simply amazing collection of Toyota Motorsport machines.
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