With over 73 different championships running in the world today, ranging from Volkswagen TDI Jettas supporting major IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) races in the United States of America, to the glamorous Porsche Carrera Cup championships, one-make racing series serves as a proving ground for junior drivers to compete with other drivers of similar experience, and if they do well, their racing talents will be noticed by headhunters and team owners. Thanks to Toyota Malaysia, aspiring individuals can get their hands on a competitive turnkey racer for just RM90,000 and a venue to prove their worth.
This is the Toyota Vios Challenge, a racecar that is designed and developed by Toyota for for the upcoming Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival one-make race series taking place in Batu Kawan, Penang this coming August 12th and 13th.
Toyota Motor Thailand first put this concept into practice more than 10 years ago with the intention to being motorsport closer to people – to city steets, to shopping malls, to wherever people can gather, rather than expecting people to come to the racetrack. Like Thailand’s ‘Fast Fun Fest’ events, the Toyota Gazoo Racing Festival features the Vios one-make, stage shows, concert by local music talents, Toyota dealers’ sales booth, F&B stalls, etc. so as to entertain visitors coming with various types of interests.
The one-make race series will see 30 drivers in identical race-prepared Toyota Vios with the participation of eight A-list local celebrities competing for top honours and the championship over a series of four events on specially-created street circuits in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Johor, with the first race is scheduled to be held in August this year with the championship stretching through to the first quarter of 2018.
Compared to the normal Vios, the Vios Challenge car is fitted with TRD safety roll cage, performance brake pads, TRD springs and absorbers, TRD strut brace, Lifeline onboard fire extinguisher system and nozzles, emergency cut off ignition switches inside and at the front windshield cowling, racing exhaust extractor and muffler set, MoTeC C125 data logging display unit, OMP tow strap, OMP Corsica Superleggero racing steering wheel and an OMP First R fibreglass racing bucket seat with four-point racing seat harness.
The front passenger seat, rear seats, sound insulation, sun shades, carpets, roof lining, glove box, spare tyre and tools were removed for weight reduction. The only creature comfort that stayed in tact is the air-conditioner with its sole purpose to keep the driver comfortable during hot races.
Despite being armed to the teeth, the visual appearance of the Vios Challenge is uncanny to its road-going siblings that boasts familiar exterior features such as its projector headlamps, daytime running lights, the four-piece 1.5GX aerokit, rear combination lamp and rear fog lamps. The racing quick-release hood pins and tow strap, together with its lowered ride height and serious front wheel camber setting makes it look apart from the ordinary road car. Even at a glance, you’ll know immediately that this car walks the talk.
Also, the other significant difference to the road car is the large TRD rear wing screwed on the rear boot lid, which helps keep the rear end aerodynamically steady in high speeds.
The Vios one make race cars are fitted with 15” Enkei RPF1 racing wheels, wrapped in Toyo Proxes T1R all season high-performance tyres.
Removing the quick-release pins reveals the 1.5-litre 2NR-FE naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine with Dual VVT-I similarly found in the road-going Vios 1.5J. Toyota Malaysia kept a tight lip on the actual output of the one-make racer, but says that it makes 10% more power above the original 105 hp and 140Nm of torque output. Paired with the 1.5-litre engine is a slightly modified five-speed manual transmission fitted with racing clutch disk, clutch cover and a limited slip differential.
We come to the northern loop of the Sepang International Circuit to sample first hand on how the one-make racecar performs in its natural habitat and to give the Toyota Vios Challenge a proper workout. I actually expected this car to be quite intimidating to drive, but I have to say its great fun and it’s really not that hard to drive.
Grip is really impressive and I know that the tyres have a lot to do with it, but having extra sticky tyres on a car that weighs roughly under a ton with a slight bump in power, the Vios Challenge is able to perform much higher than its road going version. Despite being bogged down by a slower driver in front with no overtaking allowed, the Vios Challenge feels like it’s able to go a lot faster.
The first four ratios in the five-speed manual gearbox are evenly spaced, which the driver is able to fully utilise the 1.5-litre engine’s top-end power. However, fifth gear feels a lot heavier than fourth but considering that the Vios Challenge will be raced in specially designed street courses, having to use the fifth ratio is highly unlikely.
The brakes are amazing and they are able to take a hard beating when braking late, hard and deep into corners. With plenty of grip from the Toyo Proxes T1R, the TRD springs and absorbers and the full TRD safety roll cage, the Vios Challenge handles exceptionally well with a neutral balance, as a proper track-focused machine should.
The hydraulic power steering offers plenty of feedback from the front wheel, as this is useful for experienced drivers to gauge the slip angles of the tyres. Understeer is not an issue in a car like this, as the limited slip differential sends power to the driven wheel with the most traction, allowing the car to turn in on throttle.
Its easy-going drivability accommodates novice drivers to get the feel of a proper professional racing series competitively without fretting on pre- and post-race logistics. That said, the Toyota Vios Challenge is the perfect turnkey racer for anyone who can fork out RM90,000 which include all the parts, engineering and testing required. One set of FIA-approved racing suits will be given and six sessions of racing school training for novice drivers are available as well.
Aspiring racers who want to participate in the race series will only need a national racing licence issued by the AAM, and of course to purchase the car as well. Current Vios owners should take note that modifying their road-going cars is strictly prohibited for this competition.
+ Extremely fun to drive
+ Rev-happy engine
+ Angry exhaust note
+ Limited slip differential
+ Manual transmission
– Not road legal
Toyota Vios Challange
Price Msia: RM90,000
Engine: 1,496cc in-line four cylinder
Fuel Economy: N/A
Transmission: Five-speed manual transmission