Toyota has confirmed that the GR Super Sport hybrid supercar revealed in 2018, and expected to launch in 2020, will form the basis of its World Endurance Championship assault from the 2020/21 season.
Toyota Gazoo racing president Shigeki Tomoyama confirmed the company’s plans to race this million dollar hybrid on the eve of the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans, and just hours after the sport's governing body, the ACO, confirmed that the series' new halo category would seek to reduce competing costs by requiring that race cars be based on actual road cars.
Tomoyama, below, said Toyota's ongoing commitment to the World Endurance Championship was good for the sport and good for Toyota.
"This is a project which will be conducive to the transformation of Toyota. Transformation in the way of how we work, and how we produce or create cars. It's the strong wish of the president that motorsport becomes the base for ever-better cars.”
Toyota also hopes to transform its image and build a legacy to equal the automotive greats.
Toyota is clearly keen to leverage its success at Le Mans for more than just brand building and technology development. Having a road car that resembles a successful race car will also help raise Toyota's profile with car enthusiasts.
"Competing in the World Endurance Championship and racing at Le Mans helps us to advance the development of our world-leading hybrid electric technology and enables us to transfer the knowledge we gain to our production cars," Tomoyama said.
Release video of 2018 GR Super Sport Concept
Toyota won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2018, and is an unbackable favourite to win again in 2019.
A cloud had hung over Toyota's longer-term involvement in the sport as manufacturers awaited the ACO's announcement on future regulations. However, today's announcement is seen as positive for the sport, and Aston Martin has already confirmed its involvement, this time with a race car based on the forthcoming Valkyrie hypercar.
Aston Martin Valkyrie
That said, today’s announcement by Toyota leaves the door open on whether the road-going GR Super Sport will actually be produced and sold. The WEC's new rules allow two kinds of entries; the first allows for competition cars based on actual road-going hypercars, a new rule which Aston Martin and McLaren were advocating for.
Toyota preferred to maintain the status quo, which allowed entry by prototypes with no roots in road car production.
Today’s rule announcement accepts both kinds: racing machines based on a road-going hypercar, and prototypes in the style of a hypercar.
When asked specifically which of the two avenues Toyota would go down Hisatake Murata, Toyota’s general manager of motorsport, said the latter.
“We are developing a prototype in the style of a hypercar,” confirmed Hisatake.
If Toyota did decide to produce the road-going version of the GR Super Sport, it would likely build just the 20 examples required to meet the rules, and the price tag will be seven figures, in Australia at least. Will it come to Australia?
"Toyota Australia has put an order in for one and we're hopeful," said Brodie Bott, head of public affairs at Toyota Australia. "[Although] the limited volume would make it hard to make it a customer car.
"If anything it's a promotional opportunity for Gazoo Racing, and hybrid as well. That's not to say it won't happen. Anything is possible and we're working closely with head office in Japan."
A few details on the GR Super Sport were shared in 2018, but Toyota’s not going into specifics, and nor is GR. The concept was powered by the Le Mans race car's 2.4-litre petrol V6 which is electrically assisted to produce close to 1,000hp (745kW).
It’s also possible that the road car would share the race car’s all-wheel-drive layout, especially if Toyota is keen to promote 0-100km/h times in its marketing.
The GR Super Sport / Le Mans racecar homologation project is not the first road car that Toyota's Le Mans team has been involved in. The 1998 Toyota GT1 was built to go racing with, and rules of the time required it to have road car roots.
Just a single car was built to satisfy the regulations, which now lives in Toyota's motorsport headquarters in Cologne.