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Away From the Tracks - Part Three


We’ve already covered a fair amount of the December visit by the DSC ED and Photo Ed to TMG’s amazing HQ in Cologne, but it’s a mark of the scale of the place that there is still plenty more that can be written about even now!

First up on our tour of the facility was the Simulator, and a demo run using data gathered that same morning by Stephane Sarrazin.

The Toyota Sim is a full F1 standard item, indeed it utilises a real 2007 F1 chassis as the driver’s environment, albeit in LMP mode with graphics overlaid on the multi screen display to simulate the (considerable) vision restrictions imposed by the coupe.

Simulator operator and Engineer Mathieu Le Nail was also the race engineer on the #8 TS030 at Le Mans and is well placed therefore to comment on the accuracy of data gathered by the impressive set-up:

“It’s very close in most regards to that which we would see on track, there are some areas where it is more difficult to replicate, the feel of brake lock-up for instance, and with our sim we can’t really replicate the continual and repeated extreme cornering forces, but really apart from that it is very, very good!”

How good?  Mathieu called up two sets of data collected by Nicolas Lapierre for Fuji, in 2012, the first trace was a simulated qualifying lap, the second a real qually lap in the car itself, the overlay was almost total! 

“If the simulator shows that a change to the car will make a difference then we will see that in reality on track.” 

Yet another reason why we shouldn’t be surprised by the rapidity with which the TS030 programme got up to speed!

The Simulator is also available for commercial hire, and the day rates seemed very reasonable all things considered, It’s apparently much in demand, not least amongst several current F1 clients!

To access the simulator room visitors have to pass through the TMG museum, we wrote a little about the F1 cars present but left a hook hanging about the (to this writer at least) more interesting exhibits.

I haven’t seen a Toyota GT-One (TS020) since 1999 when the factory effort, run of course by TMG, failed to bring home the win after a second year of trying, the final competitive car suffering a late race puncture as Ukyo Katayama pushed hard to catch the leading BMW.

As we arrived at TMG though there was a very special TS020 on display in reception, the #2 car from 1999, a car the Ed and his then very young son had seen crash very heavily in front of them in an accident that ended the competitive driving career of Thierry Boutsen.  A British marshal, whilst assisting with the clear up, took the trouble to reassure my son that Boutsen was basically OK “He’s hurt his back a bit and they’re taking their time to get him out carefully”

With that, no doubt excruciatingly painful, extraction completed the self same marshal began to remove large chunks of shattered bodywork from around the gravel trap at the first turn, turning back to us he handed over the front left hand wheel cover, race number and all, the faces of the old hands on the Page and Moy coach that evening were something to behold! It sits today, now thanks to the efforts of Allan McNish a couple of years later with the signatures of all three drivers on it, mounted to my office wall.  I hadn’t seen the car since that day and it was wonderful to see it back in pristine condition.

That wasn’t all though, as we went through the museum my eyes were drawn to just one thing, there, at the end of the room was ANOTHER TS020, no hang on, there were TWO – no THREE!!!!

The trio are neatly lined up, one of the 1998 cars, the #1 car from 1999 and the one and only ‘road car’ They present some real contrasts, the car still looks capable of competing today such was the conceptual step forward from the exaggerated road car proportions of its main competitors,  For TMG though the memories still rankle – This is the car that only started three races, started all three as a favourite, and never won, beaten by Porsche (Le Mans 1998), BMW ( Le Mans 1999) and most painfully of all for the Toyota boys, by Nissan (Fuji 1999)!

Its interesting to spot the detail differences between the 1998 and 99 cars , and there’s a surprising difference between the race and road cars too – The ride height is higher for the race version – I could easily get my foot under the 1999 race car, but the road car was, at least a couple of centimetres lower!

Inside it looks like what it is, a vestigally trimmed race car, with the odd nod towards its supposed roadgoing status “It does have a cigarette lighter!”  said the smiling Al Moffitt, the GT-One is clearly a big favourite of his too amongst a very valuable collection.

Alongside the Sportscars are the TMG rally collection, up to and including the Corolla WRC which equipped the factory team from 1997 – 99, most famously in the hands of Carlos Sainz, and despite the Spaniard’s massive winning record the Corolla’s most famous moment, rather unfortunately, might well be in the closing metres of the 1998 RAC Rally when the car expired gifting the World Championship to an astonished Tomi Makinen.

Amongst the collection of storied Celicas though lurks an altogether scarier beast – With the magnificent, but bonkers, Group B rally cars getting out of control, the FIA had moved to accommodate the wish of some manufacturers to continue with advanced rally cars, only loosely based (if at all!) on their roadgoing cousins – The concept was to restrict engine power (to c.300 bhp) and allow advanced materials and just a 10 car production run – Lancia, Audi, Ford and Vauxhall/ Opel were set to sign up, as were Toyota with the Mk 1 MR2 lookalike 222D.

With the death of Group B in such dramatic fashion though the supercars of Group S became unsustainable as a concept and the plug was pulled.  The sole completed 222D though still survives, and there it was (a car this menacing surely can’t be accorded a female descriptor – other than possible the Toyota Ex Wife!)

It is, effectively an MR2 silhouette, the whole rear bodywork hinges at the rear of the cockpit to reveal a full house late 1980s Toyota turbo V8 Group C Le Mans engine, yes the very same lump that was capable of putting out four figure power outputs in qualifying trim (and not so very much less in race trim either!)

The car has seldom run, and only once in any form of competition when TMG historian John Day took the car up the Goodwood hill on a timed run.  A repeat attempt the following year almost ended in disaster, the car suffering a major fuel leak on the start line which was, mercifully, discovered just in time.  It may not be pretty, or reliable but it is a unique part of motorsport history and I for one am very grateful that it is still with us.