Toyota Increases Factory Support
1987 was a year of increased involvement for Toyota. Ahead of the new season, DOME developed the car as an evolution of the 86C, with an aluminum monocoque chassis and honeycomb core with carbon fiber reinforcements in key areas. The suspension was of a double wishbone construction, and rear rockers were inboard mounted to create more room for ground effect tunneling on the underside of the chassis. Toyota acted as the principle pocketbook for the racing effort, but also provided the 2.1L straight four cylinder engine. Although lacking in displacement, Toyota fitted an in-house developed turbocharger to the powerplant to bring up the total output to 680 horsepower. The straight 4 banger was small, but extremely efficient on fuel and comfortably fell within the consumption limits set by FIA.
Toyota continued to reinforce its strong commitment to the racing effort by signing Formula 1 World Champion Alan Jones to drive one of the new 87Cs. 1987 was also the first year that the Toyota cars emerged with the most well-known livery of white and blue with title sponsor Minolta emblazoned across every face of the body. The cars competed in the All Japan Prototype Championship and found considerable success winning two races across the season. Both cars were entered in Le Mans but it was a race to forget. The first car lasted only 33 minutes before suffering a dead engine, and the second, four and half hours with similar engine problems.
Progress took a step backwards for Toyota unfortunately. My beloved 88C-V from Gran Turismo was an unfortunate child born into the dominant years of Jaguar and Sauber Mercedes. The engine was considered very powerful among Toyota’s contemporaries, but the chassis was disastrous. It was a late response to the unsuccessful 88C which was nothing more than an update to the existing chassis used in the 86C. In Japan and Europe, the cars struggled. In 1989, Toyota had also partnered with All American Racers in the US to compete in the IMSA GTP category. The team entered two cars, one of their own design under the name Eagle HF89 and a second being a modified 88C. Both ran Toyota’s turbocharged I4 engine. The Eagle HF89 developed significant issues at the beginning of the IMSA season, and AAR thus relied on the 89C for the remainder of the race calendar.
Back in Europe, the 88C languished in the cutthroat World Sportscar Championship. Toyota announced its new 88C-V in the early part of 1988. Toyota would do away with the tired inline 4 engine in favour of a 3.2L V8 with a DOHC configuration and twin turbos pumping compressed air into the combustion chambers. The chassis and sleeker body were once again designed by DOME who mercifully put the existing architecture that dated back to the 86C to rest. However, with this late decision came a rushed development stage for the car which couldn’t be brought to competition form before the end of the season, leaving Toyota to continue campaigning its 88C.
In a decision made partly by Toyota Research and Development division and its increasing involvement in Toyota’s motorsports operations, the Japanese outfit decided to put forward a full season effort in the World Sportscar Championship.Team TOM’S had their hands full preparing the 88C-Vs and a lone 88C for a full season of competition in both the WSC and JSPC.Renamed the 89C, Toyota began their endurance season with a solid performance at Fuji for the JSPC.The World Sportscar Championship opener at Suzuka started out with a bang.Geoff Lees and Johnny Dumfries in the No.37 89C-V claimed pole position in front of an always enthusiastic Japanese home crowd, while the second 89C completed the front row lock out, an incredible display of power to start off their European campaign.The race did not go quite as smoothly, demoting the top 89C-V to a sixth place finish.