So after the conclusion of the Festival of 86 held by Toyota, I was honoured to find out that I had won a social media competition set up by our club NSW 86/BRZ Car club. The prize was a private brunch with Tetsuya Tada, Chief Engineer of Toyota Japan and father of the Toyota 86 and a visit to renowned rally legend Neal Bates workshop. Neal Bates Motorsport is also the birthplace of 86 race cars for the new 86 racing series.
Brunch was held at East Hotel in Canberra, a snug little hotel in the suburb of Kingston. We arrived just a bit after 10am and were quickly taken into the meeting room. Everyone had already gathered including Steve and Mike from Toyota Australia, a few members from Toyota National club and a few other winners from the competition.
We sat down and Steve asked us to introduce ourselves which we did, talking about our cars, cars we had in the past, our 86s and what we have done to it. Steve then asked us a few questions including: what we most like about the 86? What needs to be improved in the 86? What were our thoughts on the Shooting brake concept?
I talked about what I loved about the 86; the balance and control the car has and how enjoyable and fun it is to drive. The improvements? Probably a bit more power and a fix to the massive torque dip between 3-4k rpm. My thoughts on the shooting brake concept are mostly positive, come-on who doesn’t want more storage space in the 86? But some improvements I suggested was that the rear quarter window was slightly too big and kind of looks out of place.
Steve noted all our comments and concerns down after which Tada-san chimed in and hinted that the new facelift 86 will be coming with some much interesting improvement to engine, suspension and ECU. This got us very excited and we tried to squeeze more information out of him but he would just sit there nodding with a smile and only said “when you open the bonnet, you will be very surprise =) ”. Guess we just have to wait and see!
During brunch, we were handed an unexpected JDM TRD t-shirts which we quickly got Tada-san to sign. Renault presented our NSW 86/BRZ Car Club photo to Tada-san so that he could remember us and a few group shots were taken with Tada-san before we headed to Neal Bates Motorsport.
A short moment later, we arrived at Neal Bates workshop. The 86RS Hino truck could be seen sitting nicely inside. Believe it or not, the truck can swallow six 86 race cars inside! With much more room for spare parts and other racing tools.
We went inside and were greeted by Neal. It was my first time meeting Neal and he seemed like a very humble and passionate man. We had a walk around the office where many of Neals trophies were on display, some memorabilia and some racing gear. In his office displayed many photos of his rally cars over the years, which were all Toyotas! His podium winning photo when he was young and various news article headlines. Neal gave us a brief introduction and a chat about his history before taking us down to visit the workshop floor.
First thing that I noticed when entering the workshop was how clean and tidy it was! We were taken into the engine room, parts room and shown some CNC machinery. Neal would explain to us what they would do in each room and showed us some parts of the engine and valving parts they made from the CNC lathe.
We were then taken around the side of the workshop, where sat an 86 car in its bare flesh. By bare flesh I mean a completely stripped 86 with just its metal frame exposed. The car was in the process getting roll cage installed and currently being set up to be the first Australian rally 86! Wait a minute…I did read before there was another 86 rally car in Australia to which Neal replied that doing hill climbs and motorkhana days was not real rally. Neal explained that this 86 rally car will enter rally events in Australia and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing this monster completed and hitting the rally stages.
Next was the highlight, the 86RS cars in the flesh mixed into a few of Bates older Toyota rally cars on display. The 86RSs caught our attention as they sat beautifully in the middle of the workshop. Neal invited us to go inside and check it out. Getting into the driver seat was harder than expected due to the roll cage not giving much room. The race car vibe can be felt after sliding into the bucket seat and placing a grip onto the steering wheel. The seating position was much lower than our own 86, and with the gutted interior and cut door trims, it felt much faster already.
Opening the hood we could see the modifications done to the car. The car has been modified with extractors and new exhaust from SME, Motec ECU with custom tune, TRD oil cooler and MCA coilovers. The car is also fitted with new 18 inch OZ racing wheels running Dunlop Direzza tyres. We later found out that Dunlop specifically developed this tyre with Tada-san for the 86RS, it even has its own individual product code “ZII-86”, how cool is that! Brakes were upgraded to AP racing BBK and a TRD duck lip spoiler to top off the looks and aerodynamics. Each car was also nicely decaled with sponsorship and of course Toyota logos.
Neal explained that all 86RS cars are controlled modified; meaning every car is practically the same in modifications. The whole idea behind this series was to promote young drivers to affordably enter and to face off against each other with also pro drivers in the mix. The tag line “we race/we learn/we win” decaled on each car will be the heart of these young drivers striving to win the top spot of this series. There are now over 35 cars already entered and ready to race off at Winton on the 20th May and I guess most 86 fans all over the world will tune in.
After drooling over the 86RS cars and a look at the older rally cars, it was time to wrap it up. It was a great afternoon and I can’t thank Toyota, Neal and our club enough. This was a memorable experience that I guess all the winners will remember. After saying our goodbyes with Neal we had one last farewell to Tada-san. Hopefully we will be seeing him again at the next Festival of 86!