GR Performance: A trip to the Toyota Gazoo Racing Academy
Since the inception of the Toyota Gazoo Racing division, the Japanese marque has made strides in the performance stable, where the BMW Ms, Audi's RS models, and AMGs, to name a few, have always had the segment to themselves.
Building on this momentum, the Gazoo Racing division in SA now has four GR models in its lineup: the GR Supra, GR Yaris, GR 86, and the recently launched GR Corolla, all of which are amazing in their own right, further solidifying Toyota’s presence in the performance segment.
In 2021, the brand expanded its portfolio with the introduction of the Toyota Gazoo Racing Driving Academy, formerly known as the Toyota Driving Academy, headquartered at the Zwartkops Raceway, a renowned landmark in the local racing landscape.
We immersed ourselves in the elite facility for half a day, getting to know what the day-to-day activities at the facility were like. Also, we all know that years of experience alone are not enough to make one the safest driver on the roads, and the need to polish up on our driving from time to time is an important factor.
To begin with, the Academy offers a full suite of advanced driving courses, from high-performance driving to defensive and off-road, which customers can complete in a variety of Toyota and/or GR-specific variants.
After a fine breakfast and a briefing, the day began with us riding shotgun around the 2.4-kilometre circuit in the GR Cup 86 model, which belonged to this year’s season winner, Setshaba Mashigo of ASAMM. A jaunt around the track revealed the thrilling and adrenaline-pumping experience of the GR Cup 86 version.
We also had the privilege to experience a ride-along with Nathi Msimanga, commanding his formidable GTC Toyota Corolla, and it became abundantly clear that circuit driving demands a unique blend of skill, precision, and a readiness to embrace risk.
The culmination of the day’s events involved an immersive session in drift control and participation in a slalom challenge. Our chosen vehicles for these exercises were the esteemed GR variants, highly respected within the TopGear SA team. These included the exhilarating GR 86, the dynamic GR Yaris, and the robust GR Corolla.
Each model offered its own unique driving experience, further improving the richness of our learning journey. The GR Yaris, our 2021 Speed Week winner, carried us to a commendable second-place finish in the slalom challenge, thanks to its nimble manoeuvrability and responsive controls, which made it a joy to steer through the course.
While our time at the facility didn’t allow us to delve into the full spectrum of courses offered by the GR Driving Academy, it’s worth painting a picture of the myriad options available to customers; these include Advanced Safety Driving, Collision Avoidance, Gravel and Dirt Road Training, Defensive Driving, Advanced 4x4 and Recovery, Dynamic Handling, Hijack Prevention, and off-road driving.
Founded in 2007, Toyota Gazoo Racing has made significant strides in both motorsports and vehicle development, continually pushing the boundaries of performance and technology, and having a dedicated facility in Zwartkops further shows how the brand is committed to refining every aspect of its division.
The experience left us with a deep appreciation for the art of driving and the dedication of the Toyota Gazoo Racing team.