Ringside Seat: is the 'ring relevant?

I enjoyed the image of Chris Harris asking Toyota GT 86 chief engineer Tetsuya Tada what it'd do round the 'ring and getting the 'don't know, don't care' response.

Less about numbers, more about this
Less about numbers, more about this
Like everyone, I'd made special time to take in his brilliant GT 86 story and video. But to hear the Nurburgring shrugged off burned me up a little bit. If a lap time was totally irrelevant to the GT 86 why would Toyota have been entering the car in the VLN races last year? Why did it test the prototype here for two years?

Twice last year I was nearly run clean off the road by suicidal 'scoop' photographers hanging from the passenger windows of cheap rentals taking to the pavements to try and catch a better shot of the GT 86 mule running between the track and workshop.

No, the Nurburgring is relevant and what's more it's a deciding ingredient in most modern performance cars.

RX-8 ticks many of the GT 86's boxes too
RX-8 ticks many of the GT 86's boxes too
What is less relevant is a Nurburgring lap time. But not releasing a lap time at all is less about making a stand and more about not wanting to sell the GT 86 short to the fools who will only look at a car's lap time before buying. But do such fools even exist?

Let's face facts, a Clio Cup is going to kick the Toyota's arse all the way around the Nordschleife. And the FWD platform will also make it quicker point-to-point on public roads for 90 per cent of the driving population too. But is that going to factor into our buying decision? Probably not.

What Toyota has been quick to point out is that the GT 86 is less about the absolute limits and more about the feel when it's there. (Hurrah! - Ed)

Mazda picked up RWD baton after AE 86
Mazda picked up RWD baton after AE 86
Let me put my cards on the table. I am partial. No, I am partisan. I only sold my trackday Mazda MX-5 after eight years to buy a Mazda RX-8 instead.

Isn't this low-limits, steering-from-the-rear exactly what Mazda has been doing with the MX-5 since 1989? That's about the same time Toyota abandoned its awesome AE86 Corolla, by the way.

Don't even get me started on the RX-8 either. The last RX-8 of 2010 vintage was only a few kilos heavier, had more outright power, a much higher spec while costing less than the new base-model GT 86. Plus you can fit four adults in an RX-8 easily.

The car our man says GT 86 has to beat!
The car our man says GT 86 has to beat!
So, what will the GT 86 do around the Nurburgring? There's only one thing I want to know, and I apologise in advance for the narrow-mindedness I'm about to display: is it faster than my RX-8?



Comments (69) Join the discussion on the forum

  • FestivAli 10 Feb 2012

    I think the point is, the GT86 is significant because it is the start of fun to drive Toyotas. We know Mazdas are fun to drive; My Dads 08 MX5-RC manual, my sisters 09 Mazda2 (manual), hell even the old 1997 626 we had, that most conventional, grandparent type of car, was actually quite a fun steer, with a nice gearshift. Prior to getting his MX-5, dad, who has no interest in cars whatsoever (he only bought the MX-5 as he liked the gearshift feel) once got a Toyota Camry (2008) rental, and even he was surprised how devastatingly boring it was to drive ("it's utterly insipid") yet Camry's, Rav4s, Landcruisers, Yari'- they are the companies bread and butter, and all of a sudden, here comes a single focused drivers car. You could argue that the RX-8 was released when another Z was on the way, and competed against things like STI imprezas and Evos in terms of price, and that (when released), it isn't exactly affordable in the same way that cars like MX-5s and the usual hot hatch suspects are, whereas the GT-86 will be around 40k AUD which many people could aim for.

  • SystemParanoia 10 Feb 2012

    vroom vroom!

  • Si_man306 10 Feb 2012

    I would hope that:

    a) The toyota is a more reliable car with significantly better mpg (19 plays 40)

    b) The toyota doesn't depreciate like a stone like the RX8 has done due to its extensive issues.

    Not difficult to sell someone a GT86 vs the RX8 on that basis really?

    (Nismo 350z owner)

  • jhayward1980 10 Feb 2012

    Great article - finally a bit of GT86 review balance.

  • frosted 10 Feb 2012

    Good car the rx8, I will buy one for a grand stick it on my drive and make fast car noises while leaning in and out imaginary corners

    I was about to buy one till I drove a 20mpg car , let me say this to you .... fk that

View all comments in the forums Make a comment