Each year at Easter around 300 competitors from around Australia come to the famous Mount Panorama motor racing circuit in my hometown of Bathurst, NSW. They come from all categories, from Dodge Vipers to 70’s Mustangs or from Formula 3 cars to Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution’s and is a great weekend for spectators. What caught my eye this year though was the entrance of the first ever production based Toyota 86. For those who have been living under a rock, The Toyota 86 was just about every motoring publications car of the year in 2012, for $29,990 you get yourself a true rear-wheel drive sports car with a 2.0l Subaru boxer engine pushing out 147kw, a 6 speed manual or automatic transmission with a limited slip differential and a design that makes the car look like it should be sold for $30,000 more. For these reasons the 86 got me interested, especially when I found out it would be racing.
The car was built and raced by Pedders Racing from Bendigo, Victoria. The team moved to the Toyota 86 after previously racing a Proton GTI, winning their class in the 2012 Australian Production Car Championship. Team owner and driver Grant Phillips said that as soon as he saw the Toyota 86 announced nearly 2 years ago he knew that he wanted to race the car. The car was co-driven over the weekend by Top Gear Australia host and Australia’s favourite porta-loo delivery man, Shane Jacobson. Shane got involved in the weekend after Grant approached him at a conference in February simply for the opportunity to race at the legendary Mount Panorama, with the 86 just being a massive bonus.
The car entered over the weekend by Pedders Racing had a completely stock engine, with the only differences to the car being its suspension, brake rotors, battery, roll cage and exhaust. The first practice session on Friday at the Mount was the first time anyone had driven the car with it only getting tuned days before. The team placed consistently throughout the weekend, still with lots of room for improvement, but having been the first time the drivers had driven on the track in a brand new car it wasn’t exactly expected to break any track records but to be used as practice for the upcoming Australian Manufacturers Championship which the 86 will be entered in competing against Honda Integra Type R’s, Toyota Celica’s and Renault Megane’s.
The car still has a few more additions to be added before the championship begins, including bigger sway bars, brake calipers and a new livery. Shane Jacobson told me that the car was great fun to drive and loved how you could give it all you wanted and still be so forgiving. Team owner, Grant, thought the car was a bit taily and prone to slide out but he blamed that on their use of tyres that had been at the teams workshop for 4 years.
Mount Panorama is an awesome track, and its famous for a reason with tight bends, steep hills and a 300km/h straight. Because of this, it attracted some of the countries quickest cars including the Australian Formula 3 championship cars and some GT3 cars including Dodge Vipers and Porsche 911 GT3’s. Not all of these cars survived though with one particular BMW M3 coming off quite bad.
The event attracted a record 10,000 spectators for the weekend and well and truly cemented itself as one of the premier racing festivals in Australia. With cars like the Toyota 86 and the Dodge Viper racing at the event it’s not hard to see why the event is growing year on year and I expect it to grow even more in 2014.