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Toyota GR Supra Racing Concept - chief engineer Tada interviewed at Geneva

evo staff
12 Mar 2018

The Supra's chief engineer plays up differences with the Z4, and the new car's tuning potential


Page 1 of 2Toyota GR Supra Racing Concept - chief engineer Tada interviewed at Geneva

Only days ago the Toyota GR Supra Racing Concept broke cover at the 2018 Geneva motor show. Toyota has been quick to follow up the coveted reveal with a virtual video clip starring the fifth-generation Supra concept.

Unsurprisingly, the clip provides little in the way of new details or information based in the virtual world. However, it offers the first opportunity to audibly assess the forthcoming Toyota GR Supra Racing Concept, with its straight-six in full voice – albeit computer generated. The fifth generation Supra is undoubtedly one of the most keenly awaited new car debuts, and at Geneva Toyota has teased us once again with its clearest indication yet of what a finished production car might look like. 

The GR Supra Racing Concept - to give it its full name, for all Supras will be marketed under the Gazoo Racing sub brand -  isn’t said to conform with any racing formulae in particular, but that hasn’t stopped it from appearing authentic all the same. Toyota lists the highlights and equipment that make up its ‘racing spec’, but doesn’t give any mechanical specifications or even a hint as to what lies under the brutal bodywork.

> Click here for our live coverage of the Geneva motor show 

However, as we reported last month, leaked information in Japan suggests the road car will have a six cylinder engine producing 335bhp and 332lb ft of torque, with 0-62mph dispatched in 3.8-seconds.  A weight figure of 1,496kg has been rumoured, but is not substantiated.

What Toyota has said is that the front and rear bumpers, front splitter and diffuser, side skirts, mirror housings, rear wing and bonnet are all made from composite material on the Racing Concept, and that the windscreen and side windows are plastic, not glass. The wheels are BBS centre lock racing wheels shod with Michelin ‘racing tyres’, and the suspension is lowered but of O.E. design. Braking is via a set of Brembo motorsport discs and calipers, with a race-spec exhaust and an interior fully equipped for modern motor racing, with OMP bucket seat, roll cage and sophisticated steering wheel with its own display and numerous switches.

Like us, what you probably want to see is the finished Supra road car. In the meantime, you’ll be able to ‘drive’ the GR Supra Racing Concept on your Playstation, as it’s part of an update for Gran Turismo Sport that goes live next month.

> Click here for our review of the Toyota Yaris GRMN

Speaking to Tetsuya Tada

The Geneva show gave us the opportunity to discuss the Supra further with the car's chief engineer, Tetsuya Tada. While Tada and the company are still being cagey at this stage, the chat was encouraging, and helped to illustrate that despite the car's co-development with the BMW Z4, Toyota's effort will be a very different car to its Bavarian counterpart.

How much can you say about the differences between the Z4 and Supra?

Unlike the GT86 co-developed with Subaru, with BMW we first decided on the concept of the car that each company would like to develop separately. Once these concepts were clear we looked into which parts could be common between the two projects - and the number of common parts and elements are much fewer than many may imagine.

Presumably it’s going to share the engine architecture, so how has Toyota developed the engine, suspension etc differently from BMW? Is it a more focused car?

From our side Toyota wanted to make a pure sports car, and BMW has a slightly different direction. Engine calibration is quite different between the two cars. Even if the hardware is the same in some elements, the calibration is completely different - the driving experience will be very different to the Z4.

Which other models have been benchmarked, and is there any reference to previous versions of the Supra?

We looked into Porsches - the 911 for example. As for previous Supras, we’re aware that there’s a huge fanbase for previous Supras, so we’ve interviewed them to hear their expectations before we started the project. People told us they wanted a six-cylinder engine and a front-engined, rear-drive layout.

Will it be offered with a manual gearbox?

We’re still in discussion about these details, so we don’t know what the final production car will use yet.

Is there any likelihood of a hybrid powertrain?

We are considering not only hybrid but also other powertrain tech, EVs, fuel cells etc. We’re looking at all these possibilities for our future sports cars.

The Supra will be sold under Gazoo Racing rather than as a Toyota. Given the love for the Supra as a Toyota product, why the branding difference?

It’s not our intention to change the brand, but we created GR as a dedicated sports car brand under Toyota, so it makes sense for all Toyota’s future models to be sold under the GR brand.

How much of the GT86 development has assisted in developing the Supra?

In terms of the number of engineers just a few, but we’ve taken on new engineers too, and the GT86 itself has been a significant factor in allowing us to develop the Supra. The reason we took on new members for this project was because most engineers dream of developing a sports car in their life, so we wanted to give this opportunity to our younger engineers.

Have you taken tuning into account during the development of the new car? Will there be aspects people can customise?

Just as with the 86, we have the same message with the new car - we’d really like people to tune the car themselves.

Will there be any factory modifications, or are you letting the aftermarket take over?

It’s difficult to define what is a brand or maker-approved modification. It was a concern we had with the GT86, but once it was launched on the market we learned that users on the market have quite high standards and respect the car, so the aftermarket developed on its own. I hope the same will happen with the Supra. With the GT86 we didn’t have to interfere too much into the market and what the users were doing - so as a brand we’re not likely to interfere with the market too much either.

Page 1 of 2Toyota GR Supra Racing Concept - chief engineer Tada interviewed at Geneva

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