A brief history of Toyota in the BTCC

For the first time since the 1992 British Touring Car Championship season, a Toyota enters the final event of the season with a chance of winning the overall title. Back then it was Will Hoy in a Carina; today it is Tom Ingram in an Avensis.

Those are just two of the successes in a relationship between Toyota and the BTCC that stretches back more than four decades. Here are some of the highlights.

1975: Enter the Samurai

The groundwork for Toyota’s participation in the BTCC was laid during the 1974 season when Liverpudlian racer and engineer John Markey campaigned a first-generation Celica GT under the Dealer Team Toyota banner. Entering his near-standard machine in the class for cars with engines under 1.6 litres, Markey claimed a class victory in the final round at Brands Hatch.

In 1975, prominent Bedford-based tuning company Samurai Racing took over the running of the car, while Win Percy, then 31, was hired to drive. With more power, overhauled suspension and a number plate confidently proclaiming ‘WIN 1’, the 1,588cc Celica GT won its class nine times. Percy ended the season tied on overall points with eventual champion Andy Rouse but lost out by dint of fewer class wins. He was second overall in 1976, too, with nine more class wins.

1982: Percy’s clean sweep

The histories of Win Percy and Toyota in the BTCC are inextricably linked, and the west countryman’s third stint with the manufacturer was also the most successful. At the helm of a new Corolla GT, Percy racked up a clean sweep of class victories – 11 out of 11 – and gave Toyota its first overall BTCC title. Percy’s four-cylinder car was also a regular fixture in the overall top ten, despite not having as big an engine as other machines.

1985: Sheene’s machine

A change of regulations for 1983 prompted a change of car, with Toyota GB stepping up to the BTCC’s main class with a 2.8-litre straight-six Celica Supra. Percy scored this car’s only outright BTCC win at Brands Hatch in 1984 but the arrival of motorcycle racing legend Barry Sheene as his replacement in 1985 grabbed the attention of the daily papers. It was more than just a publicity stunt: Sheene, who was making a full-time switch from two wheels to four, took two podiums in the 200bhp Celica Supra and ended the year sixth in the Class A points standings.

1986/87: Hodgetts goes back-to-back

For 1986, Toyota GB returned to the class for 1,301-1,600cc engine capacities, entering an AE86 Corolla GT Coupe and contracting Chris Hodgetts to drive. It was a hugely successful combination; Hodgetts became a crowd favourite with his attacking driving in the 180bhp car. Over two seasons he and Toyota GB claimed 18 class wins from 20 starts and secured back-to-back overall BTCC titles.

1988: Corollas everywhere

At the tail-end of the decade, the rear-wheel drive AE86 Corolla continued to be a fixture on the BTCC grid, even though it had effectively been replaced by the newer, front-wheel drive Corolla GT hatch that was also competing. Indeed, Phil Dowsett, driving a TOM’S GB-entered Corolla, finished second overall in the 1988 championship and won Class D ahead of Tony Crudgington, who was in a privately entered AE86. Dowsett added a second Class D title in 1989, making him and Toyota the last winners of the BTCC’s ‘small class’ before it was phased out.

1991: Enter the Super Tourers

With the BTCC switching to a single-class formula for 2.0-litre cars, Toyota was back in force with a brace of front-wheel drive Carina models run under the Kaliber ICS Team Toyota banner. Multiple BTCC champion Andy Rouse took three wins, and Rouse and Toyota ended the season third in both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ standings.

For 1992, Rouse was joined in the team by reigning champion Will Hoy. Toyota enjoyed one of its strongest seasons ever, regularly challenging for pole positions, podiums and race wins, with a resounding one-two at Oulton Park in May one of the highlights. Hoy finished second in the points, Rouse was fifth, and it was joint-second for Toyota in the manufacturers’ standings.

1993 – “The car upside down is a Toyota!”

Renowned Toyota tuning company TOM’S GB took over the running of the Carina Es as Toyota expanded to its most ambitious BTCC assault yet. Hoy remained with the main team, joined by former Formula 1 racer Julian Bailey. Hoy and Bailey were regular qualifiers in the top five and often closely matched eachother on race pace – perhaps sometimes a little too closely matched, as the famous crash right in front of the television cameras in the British Grand Prix support race at Silverstone attested! Hoy, leading the race at the time, ended upside down in the gravel trap after Bailey smashed into him, creating one of the most memorable moments of 1990s BTCC history. The season yielded a single win for Bailey at Knockhill. He ended up fifth in the points, with Hoy seventh and Toyota third in the manufacturers’ standings.

2011: Back where it belongs

After an absence of almost a decade-and-a-half, Toyota returned to the BTCC in tandem with the championship’s switch to the Next Generation Touring Car (NGTC) rules. Fittingly, the Avensis – spiritual successor to the Carina E raced in the BTCC in the mid-1990s, and based on the road car built by Toyota Manufacturing UK at Burnaston, Derbyshire – was adopted by the BTCC to showcase the new regulations. Two cars appeared on the grid and, in 2012, Dynojet Race Team’s Frank Wrathall scooped the first BTCC win for the Avensis NGTC at Brands Hatch. It was the first win for Toyota after 19 seasons.

2014: A new star is born

Having impressed in the various formulae within the BTCC’s support package, Tom Ingram signed for Speedworks Motorsport to race the Avensis in 2014 and didn’t take long to make an impact. He started 2016 in stunning fashion, qualifying on pole position and storming to his debut victory at Brands Hatch.

This year, his fourth with Cheshire-based Speedworks and Toyota, he’s been even more successful in the updated Avensis, with four wins so far. He remains in mathematical contention for the overall title ahead of the final event at Brands Hatch this weekend. If Ingram retains fourth or higher in the points at the end of the race day at Brands Hatch, it will be the highest a Toyota-mounted competitor has finished in the BTCC points since Will Hoy’s second place in 1992.

Our thanks to the wonderful BTCC Blueprints for the illustrations. 

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