Toyota will return to the BTCC as a manufacturer in 2019 with Tom Ingram and Speedworks Motorsport. By partnering with arguably one of the best outfits on the grid, Toyota have set themselves up for success right from the get-go, and in Ingram, a driver who came so close to winning the 2018 drivers championship they have an ambassador who can help Toyota reach the levels of popularity that Vauxhall and the VXR brand, and Honda and the Type R brand have enjoyed as a result of the BTCC. As the series continues to grow from strength to strength and welcomes Toyota back into the fold, I’ve looked back at the history of Toyota in the series starting back in 1974.
The Early Years – British Saloon Car Championship
Toyota’s roots in top-level UK motorsport can be traced back pre the BTCC, to the British Saloon Car Championship in 1974. John Markley contested the 1974 season in a Toyota Celica GT built to Class A regulations under the Dealer Team Toyota banner. Markley would finish the season 19th in the standings after winning the final race of the season at Brands Hatch. The Celica GT was first run by Mathwall Engineering, and then by Markley’s own outfit Arian Automotive.
Toyota’s fortunes improved in 1975 as the Celica GT now run by Samuri Racing and driven by Win Percy finished 2nd in the standings, level on points with Class B driver Andy Rouse. Percy took 10 Class A victories during the 1975 season, with Brands Hatch, Snetterton and Oulton Park the only circuits he failed to record a win at. He just lost out to Rouse courtesy of the fact that Rouse had secured 12 class wins to Percy’s 10. The team also prepared a second car for the 1975 season backed by Toyota. Rex Greenslade joined the team the second time the series visited Silverstone at the midpoint of the season but was replaced by Brian Cutting and Barrie Williams by the end of the year.
Percy and the Toyota Celica GT continued onto 1976 in the same strong run of form that saw them come 2nd in ’75. With new regulations bought in to combat the dominance of the large American V8’s, Percy once again finished 2nd in the overall standings winning all but one race in Class B. He lost out on the overall title to Bernard Unett, who won every single Class A race. He was joined at the Samuri Racing outfit by Barrie Williams, whose Class B victory at Brands Hatch ensured that Toyota won every available Class B race that season. Williams would eventually finish the season 6th in the overall standings. Brian Cutting began the season with the team but failed to appear again after round four at Thruxton.
1976 would be the last season that Samuri Racing ran the Toyota’s with factory backing, as Toyota withdrew their support at the end of the season and Samuri Racing and Win Percy moved to the Ford Capri. Future-F1 race Martin Brundle purchased the two ex-works Celica GTs for 1977 and they appeared from round three of the season onwards at Oulton Park, in the hands of Brundle and Martin Williams.
Martin Brundle continued in the John Brundle Motors Ltd-backed Celica in 1978, and Win Percy returned to the marque in the independently-run and newly-built Way Valley Racing / Bradshaw Plant Hire Celica GT. Void of factory backing, Percy failed to replicate his success of previous years and he picked up just one Class B victory all season at Brands Hatch as the Mini 1275 GT of Richard Longman won the overall title.
1979 saw Brundle move on as Percy continued in the new Celica GT now backed by Team Toyota Hughes of Beaconsfield. The season was more successful as Percy won in Class B four times on his way to 5th in the overall standings.
As the challenge from Japanese manufacturers mounted in 1980 Toyota stalwart Percy moved on once again, this time to Tom Walkinshaw Racing and the Mazda RX-7. Percy’s drive at Hughes of Beaconsfield Toyota was taken by BTCC newcomer and future champion Chris Hodgetts who continued the Celica’s strong run of form by claiming three Class B victories on his way to 6th in the overall standings. Jonathan Buncombe, Martin Brundle and John Tait all made appearances in the Celica GT throughout 1980 but would fail to achieve any significant success.
1981 saw Hodgetts take the fight to Percy in the Mazda for the overall driver’s title as he won Class B six times in the Toyota Celica ST to finish just four points shy of Percy at the end of the season. Whilst Brundle made the switch to Audi, Hodgetts was joined by various drivers of Toyota-badged cars throughout the season including Tait, Carlise, Buncombe, Mayers and Brodie. Apart from Hodgetts, no other driver would achieve any notable results.
Toyota golden boy Win Percy returned to the team now known as Hughes of Beaconsfield/Toyota GB for the 1982 season, and with the new year came a new Toyota to campaign with. The Toyota Corolla GT was the new kid on the block, and now in Class C, Percy stormed to a stunning 11 class victories on his way to the title, which would be Toyota’s first overall win in the BSCC. Despite being the sole Toyota to complete a full campaign, he was joined at various rounds by drivers in both Corollas and Celicas, who included Hodgetts, Burrows, Brundle (Robin), Hall, Crudginton and Tait.
It was all change for the 1983 BSCC season as regulation changes meant that Toyota stepped up to Class A with their works team Hughes of Beaconsfield/Toyota GB and the new Toyota Celica Supra. The Corolla GT was still present on the grid, however, with Win Percy campaigning the first round of the season in the old Corolla, and Driver, Crudington and Kimber-Smith making select appearances in a Corolla run by RZ Racing. The season was a disruptive one for the whole grid, Toyota and Percy included as the Celica Supra failed to win a race. Percy won the opening round of the season in Class C but failed to really get running in the new Celica Supra until round eight of the season at Silverstone and he ended the year outside the top ten.
The team pushed on in 1984 with Percy again behind the wheel. With the Corolla GT now obsolete, the Celica Supra was the only model to feature on the grid in 1984 but despite an improved showing from Percy including one Class A win at Brands Hatch he finished the year 12th in the standings. The win at Brands Hatch would remain the Celica Supra’s only outright BSCC race win. Percy failed to compete the full season, with Tony Dron and Gordon Spice standing in for one and two races respectively.
1985 bought about the biggest change at Team Toyota GB for a number of years. BSCC stalwart Percy left the series to join the European Touring Car Championship and was replaced by motorcycle racing legend Barry Sheene. Sheene completed the full season in the Celica Supra but finished 16th in the standings after a tough introduction to touring car racing. Two Corolla GT’s returned to the grid in independent hands, with AGK Motorsport running a car for Geoff Kimber-Smith, and Crudginton running a car for himself.
1986 was all change again, as Toyota GB switched their factory backing from the Celica Supra and Class A back to the all-new Corolla GT and Class C. Hughes of Beaconsfield remained with the Celica Supra for the opening half of 1986 with Pete Lovett and David Sears behind the wheel, but the team failed to feature after round five of the season. With Toyota’s attention firmly back on Class C, Chris Hodgetts was re-signed for a full season. He was joined for a select few rounds by Alan Minshaw and Barry Sheene. With support from Duckhams, Hodgetts won all but one race in Class C to storm to the overall BSCC drivers title in his first season back with Toyota, beating Longman and Rouse. Crudginton and Kimber-Smith also ran their independent Corolla GTs.
Continued Toyota Success In The British Touring Car Championship Era
The British Touring Car Championship launched in 1987 and despite a new name, it was business as usual for Hodgetts and Toyota. Now in Class D, Hodgetts secured back-to-back titles winning all but two races as the Toyota Corolla won every single one. Kimber-Smith and Mark Hales would be the two other race winners. The team was now called Chris Hodgetts Motorsport after Toyota withdrew factory backing and naming rights. Kimber-Smith ran in an AGK Motorsport prepared car, and Tony Crudgington continued his independent association with Toyota running a Corolla GT under his name.
1988 marked the start of the BTCC’s rise into a global touring car super series and Toyota although without a factory team were one of the most popular manufacturers on the grid. MIL Motorsport ran the Toyota Supra Turbo in Class A for Hodgetts, Hales, Nick Flux and Vic Lee, whilst also running a Class D Corolla GT for Kevin Eaton and John Llewellyn. Chris Hodgetts Motorsport also continued to run a Corolla GT, as did Crudgington and AGK Motorsport but the main honours in ’88 went to the TOM’S GB team and the Corolla FX GT driven by Phil Dowsett. Dowsett won ten class D races to finish 2nd in the overall standings whilst the Supra Turbo struggled in Class A.
Almost all of Class A was made up of Ford Sierra RS500s in 1989, and Toyota’s presence in the BTCC was down to just a handful of independently run Class D cars. Phil Dowsett won Class D once again in the Corolla FX GT despite the tougher competition from the Honda of Ray Ames.
The 1990’s And Toyota’s Last Stand In The BTCC
The rule changes of 1990 designed to attract new manufacturers to the BTCC resulted in the series switching from four classes to two, with just one class for 1991. No Toyotas were present on the grid in 1990, but they would return for 1991.
With factory backing once again, Kaliber ICS Team Toyota entered the 1991 BTCC with the Toyota Carina, run by Andy Rouse’s in-house team. The team had BTCC legend Rouse behind the wheel alongside Gary Ayles as was expected to fight from the title right from the get-go. The season was a reasonable success, as Rouse scored three race victories at Donington Park and Brands Hatch to finish 3rd in the standings. Ayles would struggle to 14th, and Toyota finished 3rd in the constructor’s championship.
More success would follow for the team in 1992. With a change of title sponsor and name to Team Securicor ICS Toyota, Ayles left the team and was replaced by Will Hoy. Toyota also ran a third Carina for Thorkild Thyrring and Julian Bailey but neither would enjoy any significant results. The season was a good one however as the team won four times on their way to another 3rd place in the constructor’s standings. Will Hoy finished the year 2nd in the championship whilst Andy Rouse finished 5th.
It was all change in 1993 as Andy Rouse’s team lost the contract to field Toyota’s works BTCC effort. Rouse left the team, and Tom’s GB took over the running of the cars split over a senior and junior team. The senior outfit was named Team Securicor Toyota and the junior team called Park Lane Toyota Junior Team. Both teams ran the new shape Carina E GTi. Rouse was replaced in the senior squad by Bailey whilst Hoy was retained, and James Kaye and Bobby Verdon-Roe drove for the junior team. The new-look side struggled to match the dominant BMWs, and Toyota picked up just one race win all season courtesy of Bailey at Knockhill. Bailey would finish 5th in the standings with Hoy in 7th, Toyota finished 3rd in the constructor’s standings for the third year in a row.
The BTCC continued to grow from strength to strength in 1994 as the structure of the Toyota team remained largely the same from the previous season. Now called the Toyota Castrol Team, Bailey and Hoy were retained and a third car was built for Tim Sugden. The team struggled all season in the wake of the dominant Alfa Romeos and failed to win a race or finish on the podium. Bailey, Hoy and Sudgen finished 12th, 13th and 19th respectively and Toyota slipped to 7th in the constructor’s standings.
1995 marked Toyota’s final season in the Super Touring era of the BTCC. Now known as Team Toyota GB with backing from Mobil1, Bailey was retained for another year alongside Sugden as Hoy made the switch to Renault. The car was better, and a significant step forward from 1994 but it still wasn’t enough to help Toyota challenge for the title as once again they failed to score a race win or podium finish. Bailey ended the season in 9th and Sugden 14th as Toyota finished 5th in the constructor’s championship.
As Toyota’s factory support left the BTCC, the Carina E GTi remained on the grid in the hands of Independent Lee Brookes in 1996. But after the end of the ’96 season, a Toyota wasn’t seen on the BTCC grid again until 2011.
The NGCT Era
After a lengthy absence from top-level UK motorsport, the Toyota name returned to the BTCC grid in 2011. The new Toyota Avensis arrived, built to NGCT specifications in the hands of Frank Wrathall and Tony Hughes. Built by Dynojet and Speedworks Motorsport respectively, the Avensis’s were independent entries but Wrathall still enjoyed reasonable success scoring 4 podium finishes on his way to 12th in the standings. Hughes struggled more in a stop and start season and would end the year 31st. It wasn’t a screaming success, but the Toyota name was back in the BTCC.
Wrathall stayed with Dynojet into 2012 as he continued his strong form by winning the final race of the season at Brands Hatch. The victory marked Toyota’s first BTCC race win for almost two decades and Wrathall finished the season 10th in the standings. Speedworks continued to run the Avensis with Adam Morgan at the wheel for the full season. A tough year saw Morgan end 2012 19th in the table. He was joined on occasion by a second Speedworks Avensis driven by Tony Hughes and Paul O’Neil.
Toyota’s presence on the BTCC grid was growing again as the 2013 season featured four independently backed cars. Wrathall and Dynojet continued together finishing 16th in the overall standings, whilst Adam Morgan moved to his own Cicely Motorsport prepared Avensis. Morgan would enjoy a brilliant year on his way to 7th in the table whilst Speedworks prepared two cars for Dave Newsham and Ollie Jackson. Newsham would finish 10th and Jackson 20th.
Five Toyota Avensis’s were present on the 2014 grid. US powerhouse United Autosports fielded two cars, one full-time for James Cole and one which was split between Glynn Geddie and Luke Hines. Neither car would enjoy any success. Speedworks motorsport now featured Tom Ingram in their Avensis, whilst Handy Motorsport fielded Simon Belcher and Houseman Racing had Lea Wood. It was a barren year for the Toyota, as none of the five cars were able to make any significant impact at the top of the BTCC.
2015 rolled around and once again the Toyota Avensis was a popular choice for independent teams on the BTCC grid. Stewart Lines replaced Wood at Houseman Racing, RCIB Insurance Racing ran an Avensis for Kieran Gallagher and Tony Gilham, Speedworks continued with Tom Ingram and the Handy Motorsport drive was shared between Simon Belcher and Rob Holland. Ingram was the strongest Toyota representative, scoring two memorable podium finishes at the tail end of the season to secure 13th place in the overall standings.
Five cars once again graced the grid in 2016 as Rob Austin replaced Belcher and Holland at Handy Motorsport. RCIB Insurance Racing ran Michael Epps and Jake Hill and Chris Smiley, Tony Gilham and Michael Caine shared a TLC Racing Avensis. Ingram was once again the strongest Toyota, and he took two race victories during the season and finished 10th in the championship. Rob Austin also had a good first year with the Avensis as he reached the podium twice.
Just two Toyotas remained on the grid for 2017 as only Ingram at Speedworks and Austin at Handy Motorsport stayed in their cars for another year. Both Ingram and Austin enjoyed great seasons, with Ingram winning four times on his way to 3rd in the standings and Austin winning once to finish 11th. It was the strongest season for a Toyota badged car in the BTCC since 1992.
Only Ingram and Speedworks Motorsport remained with Toyota for the 2018 season. Ingram had a sensational year and came within two races of securing the first Toyota title in the BTCC since 1989. He won three races on his way to 2nd in the overall standings, just losing out to Colin Turkington at the final weekend of the season at Brands Hatch.
Toyota announced their return to the BTCC as a manufacturer in late 2018. Partnering Speedworks Motorsport and running under the famous Team Toyota GB banner the marque will be represented by the brand new Toyota Corolla. Toyota has a long and successful history in British saloon and touring car racing, and I’m eager to see if they can replicate their successes of the last few decades once again. They’ve partnered with one of the best team and driver combinations on the grid, so watch this space.
What are your memories of Toyota in the BTCC? Let me know in the comments below or over on Facebook!