GAZOO Racing participated with the GR Supra in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring in Germany for the first time recently, and performed well under challenging conditions to finish the race third in the SP8T class. MORIZO, also known as Toyota President Akio Toyoda, was one of the four drivers to take the wheel of the No. 90 GR Supra during the 47th edition of the endurance race, which marked a highly significant anniversary for the GAZOO Racing team.
This year’s first qualifying session was affected by a sudden thunderstorm. The weather had cleared by the second session, yet high temperatures soon brought on severe conditions for both the vehicles and their drivers. The No. 90 GR Supra started from 99th place on the grid among a total of 158 vehicles that lined up for the 24-hour race. MORIZO was the first driver for the GR Supra, and was followed by his team mates Masahiro Sasaki, Uwe Kleen, and Herwig Daenens.
The No. 90 GR Supra made a good start and gradually raised its position. However, the soaring temperatures had a negative impact on all of the vehicles, resulting in multiple collisions across the course. Thereafter, the race became one of survival. It was at this time that the GR Supra made contact with a competitor vehicle. Fortunately, the team was able to continue, with the vehicle running smoothly into the following day.
The second day of the race took place on 23 June, a date that is written in the history of GAZOO Racing. Mr. Hiromu Naruse, the master driver of Toyota who co-launched GAZOO Racing and was MORIZO’s former driving teacher, passed away suddenly on the outskirts of Nürburgring nine years ago on this date. At this year’s 24 Hours of Nürburgring, it became a special day for Akio Toyoda and the GAZOO Racing team, as running with the new Supra had long been Toyoda’s dearest wish.
Toyoda, who was Vice President at the time, established GAZOO Racing with the goal of making ‘ever-better cars’ and started his driver training at the Nürburgring in 2001. However, the following year, production of the Supra was discontinued. This remained a source of great regret for Toyoda, who was determined to revive the Supra and refine it on the rigorous Nürburgring roads before launching it into the world.
Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation, commented: “First of all, I’d like to thank everyone. Today is a day of remembrance for Mr. Naruse’s passing. At the time of Mr. Naruse’s funeral, I resolved to stay on this path, alongside a handful of passionate people who wanted to continue doing this with me. Our GAZOO Racing activities have continued through the great support of growing numbers of people to bring us to this point today. And as a matter of fact, this event has taken a central place in our continued activity of making ever-better cars and developing human resources.”
The Nürburgring circuit offers 170 corners of varying lengths and a maximum elevation difference of 300 meters; it has been said that the circuit condenses the world’s roads into a single course, making it the ultimate vehicle proving ground. The extended nature of the 24 Hours of Nürburgring race also allows engineers to supplement clinical machine data with the subjective analysis of experienced master drivers, who can provide more nuanced, emotion-led feedback.
GAZOO Racing’s Hideyuki Tanaka, Chief Mechanic for the Supra, said: “For the GR Supra, the longest race we had experienced until now was just four hours, so I am happy that we completed 24 hours for the first time. Our drivers and many supporters helped us to accomplish it. I am full of gratitude and I want to thank everyone.”
Over the years, Toyota has been participating in many different forms of motorsport, including Formula One, the World Endurance Championship (WEC), and the Nürburgring 24 Hours endurance race. Toyota’s participation in these events was overseen by separate entities within the company until April 2015, when Toyota established GAZOO Racing, to consolidate all of its motorsport activities under one in-house brand. Representing Toyota’s belief that ‘the roads build the people, and the people build the cars,’ GR highlights the role of motorsport as a fundamental pillar of Toyota’s commitment to making ‘ever-better’ cars. Harnessing years of experience gained under the extreme conditions of various motorsport events, GR aims to forge new technologies and solutions that bring the freedom, adventure, and joy of driving to everyone.