A history of performance: A quick look at Toyota’s performance divisions in the Philippines
Joey Deriquito · Sep 17, 2023 03:00 PM
Toyota Motor Corporation has a long and storied history of performance divisions. While the Japanese brand is known for the reliability and durability of its products, it has also dabbled in the performance and motorsports segments.
The Japanese automaker has joined several prestigious races in its history, which include the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Super GT, and the World Rally Championship.
While there are many legendary Toyota vehicles, we should mention its various performance and tuning divisions. We will focus on the ones that were and still are available locally, such as its Gazoo Racing lineup of vehicles, which include the GR Supra, GR Yaris, and GR 86. These were featured at the brand’s 2023 Gazoo Racing Festival at the Quirino Grand Stand.
Toyota Racing Development (TRD) - humble beginnings to household name
Toyota Racing Development (TRD) was officially established in 1976, but its roots can be traced back another 19 years when the brand entered the world of competitive motorsport. TRD made its presence known when it entered the Australia Rally in 1957 as the Japanese economy was recovering from the effects of the Second World War.
In that race, the Japanese automaker entered a production version of the Toyopet Crown Delux for the 19-day endurance contest in Australia. The sedan completed its epic journey without major mechanical problems, finishing 47th overall and 3rd among the foreign entries. Thus, the spark set ablaze the brand’s quest for performance in motorsport, evolving into its household name today.
For the Philippine side of things, TRD’s entry into the local market was more for looks than performance. One of the earliest entries into the local market was the Toyota Corolla TRD Sport.
It was mechanically identical to the local version of the Corolla GLi, but it had a unique body kit and other parts to make it look different from the standard model.
The same aesthetic treatment would also be given to the brand’s more modern offerings, such as TRD versions of the Toyota Hilux, Toyota Fortuner, and even the Toyota Rush. While there were minor additions to help improve performance, such as tweaks to the suspension and race oil filters, the overall performance of these vehicles remains close to their stock regular counterparts.
TOM’S - Tuning Toyotas and Lexus vehicles since 1975
Tachi Oiwa Motor Sport (TOM’S) was established in 1974 by Nobuhide Tachi. It is an automotive aftermarket parts manufacturer and tuner of Toyota and Lexus vehicles and has a factory-backed racing team.
The company officially became Toyota’s authorized tuning shop in 1975, a year after its initial establishment, and has been creating unique performance versions of Toyota vehicles.
The company has a long and storied history with motorsports as it used to make Formula 3 engines in Europe and even made F3 chassis from 1991 to 1997. TOM’S also produced vehicles for the Japanese Formula 300 racing series.
As for the Philippine market, we got a special edition 1999 model year TOM’S Toyota Corolla Turbo. The sedan had a unique body kit and parts to separate it from the standard GLi model at the time.
A TRD Sport Version was also made available for that vehicle with mechanical upgrades such as a TOM’S strut bar, TOM’s Sport muffler, and a TOM’S turbocharge with an intercooler. These modifications were tuned and designed for the Philippine market.
According to sources, the TOM’S Corolla made around 150 horsepower, which was a lot for its time, considering it was fighting against the likes of the Honda Civic SiR.
Enter the age of Gazoo Racing
The Gazoo Racing brand began when then Vice President for Toyota Motor Corporation Akio Toyoda participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2007. Veteran Toyota test driver Hiromu Naruse assembled the racing team for that event. However, as they were not an official team of the Japanese automaker and did not use Toyota vehicles, they could not use the factory-backed “Toyota Racing” name.
Instead, they settled on “Team Gazoo” – where Gazoo is derived from the Japanese word "画像," which means picture or image, and also the name of Toyota’s small independent website that published all information about the brand’s ‘independent racing project.’
Because the racing team comprised car-obsessed engineers, mechanics, and drivers, the project continued in other race events.
In 2009, Akio Toyoda became president of Toyota Motor Corporation, deciding to promote Gazoo Racing (GR) on badges and official literature as the official performance and tuning division of Toyota. In 2017, it would later become its branch of Toyota, creating motorsport-inspired tuning parts and accessories for the Japanese brand.
In 2019, GR would peak with the introduction of the Toyota GR Supra. It would later make the rally homologation special Toyota GR Yaris hatchback a year later, which became an instant hit. The GR brand’s success did not stop there as it would later play a vital role with the second generation Toyota GT86, which was not renamed to the Toyota GR86 to keep in line with its performance-oriented roots.
As for the Philippine market, we now have access to all its GR vehicles and a cosmetic-inspired line of cars under its GR-Sport sub-branding. These vehicles come with minor modifications that enhance the vehicle's handling and looks but do not come with parts that boost outright power.
One exception to this is the GR Sport Hilux, which receives a significant boost in power along with cosmetic and handling enhancements.
What do you think of Toyota’s evolution in performance tuning? Does the Gazoo Racing brand have what it takes to live up to the history that TRD started?
A car enthusiast at heart, nothing excites Joey more than an open road and a full tank of gas. Ready with the latest information about cars, he constantly studies and researches the latest happenings in the motoring world while caring for a car that's an extension of himself.