When the GR Cup kicks off March 30, 2023 at California’s Sonoma Raceway, the racecar world will welcome an exciting new addition: the Toyota GR86 Cup car. What starts out as the highly capable and always fun Toyota GR86 road machine ends up as a focused and purposeful racecar, thanks to the development skills of Toyota Gazoo Racing North America (TGRNA) and TRD.
As a fully-homologated racecar, the GR86 Cup car will be delivered race-ready to its customers with an FIA-spec roll cage, race seat and safety harness, an upgraded Bosch ECU, Sadev 6-speed sequential gearbox, JRI adjustable shocks, Alcon brakes, adjustable carbon-fiber rear wing and Continental Tire racing slicks.
“The GR86 road car is fantastically fun to drive already,” says Mark Chambers, program manager at TRD. “Through all of our upgrades we’ve really brought it to life as a track-focused racecar. During our development, we focused a lot on optimizing the handling for on-track performance through improved braking, enhanced shock tuning, ABS and Traction control (TC) activation, ride height sensitivity and rear wing settings. All to make sure that everyone who gets behind the wheel, regardless of experience, can expect to be competitive.”
Drivers of the GR86 Cup car will have a limited range of setup changes at their disposal, working with the adjustable shocks, selected spring packages, and toe and camber.
Ben Barnicoat, a Lexus factory driver who races the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship’s fiercely-competitive GTD Pro class, was involved in the GR Cup car’s testing and development.
“My first experience of the GR86 Cup car car was at Sebring, and I was thinking that driving a production-based car on a hot, slippery race track wouldn’t be much fun,” recalls Barnicoat. “But it turned out to be exactly the opposite. It felt like a proper racecar right away. We pushed it quite hard through its entire range of allowable setup changes, and every change made an effect on the car’s balance in the way you would expect.
“The technology on the car is great,” he adds. “The ABS and Traction Control settings are such that everyone from an experienced driver to a novice can get the most out of the car in any condition. The sequential gearbox is also a lot of fun, and in some ways more engaging and ‘race-y’ feeling than the paddle shift we have on the Lexus RC F GT3.”
A key development goal for TGRNA and TRD was to produce a car that isn’t just fun and confidence-inspiring for a wide range of driver abilities but will also produce excellent racing.
“One example that came up in the testing was that the car had such phenomenal braking ability and balance that I could carry speed really deep into the corner,” says Barnicoat. “So, I suggested it would make for better racing if we had to brake at 150 meters [500ft] for a particular corner, versus at 125 meters [330ft]. It’s counter-intuitive, but we’re striving for fun racing, not a target lap time.”
Chambers says the intention is to build a series where drivers can connect with the Toyota Gazoo Racing ethos through spirited competition. TGRNA will take care of the engineering; drivers can concentrate on getting the most out of the GR86 Cup car. And from the enthusiastic feedback so far, the starting point has already set the bar high.
For more on the Toyota Gazoo Racing North America GR Cup, go to grcup.com
CLASSIC TRACKS, AND PRIZES THAT COUNT
The inaugural GR Cup schedule will provide drivers and teams the opportunity to compete at some of the most iconic tracks in North America.
2023 GR CUP SCHEDULE
March 30-April 2 / Sonoma, Calif.
CIRCUIT OF THE AMERICAS
May 5-7 / Austin, Texas
VIRGINIA INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
June 16-18 / Alton, Va.
NASHVILLE MUSIC CITY GRAND PRIX*
Aug. 4-6 / Nashville, Tenn.
Aug. 25-27 / Elkhart Lake, Wis.
SEBRING INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
Sept. 22-24 / Sebring, Fla.
INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY**
Oct. 6-8 / Indianapolis, Ind.
* Street course ** IMS road course
The 14 races at seven events hosted by SRO America include challenges as varied as COTA’s Formula 1 track, the streets of Nashville, Sebring’s historic runways, and the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course.
2023 RACE PURSE
(for each of the 14 races)
Season-long drivers’ champion > $50,000
The lucrative GR Cup purse will be supplemented by additional incentives and prizes from the series’ partners, with more details to follow soon.