Toyota wants you to know that it is serious about being a sporty automaker, and not just "a plain vanilla, grocery-getter." And those are their words. So a team of Toyota engineers are taking four Toyotas on one of the most gruelling tests of race track endurance in the world: the Tire Rack One Lap of America.
One Lap is the spiritual successor of the coast to coast Cannonball Run race run in the 1970s that inspired multiple films and hundreds of stories. Today, the race lives as an eight-day, 5,914 km gauntlet that sees drivers and teams racing on a new track every day for eight days. That's 19 different sessions of setting fast laps, drag racing, and autocross with very long transit stages in between. The racing, though, is only on the track.
The engineers from the Toyota facilities in Indiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky aren't taking the Toyotas you would expect either. You aren't going to see the rear-drive 86 or even a Lexus RS.
Nope, Camries. A 2018 Toyota Camry in SE, XSE, and even Hybrid trims will be joined by a 2017 Toyota Prius. Toyota wants to show that they aren't just saying their new vehicles are more fun, they want to back it up.
“We were doing track testing just a few days ago with the Camry Hybrid,” said Toyota Indiana engineer James Nichols. “It was met with humour by other drivers in the paddock, but when we started passing cars on the track, the atmosphere changed. I think we’re going to surprise some people out there.”
If nothing else, the Prius team will probably take the prize for the least number of fuel stops. And if that's not a real prize (it isn't), then it probably should be. After all, Cannonball Run founder Brock Yates used an ambulance with a 227 litre gas tank in one running of the original event.
Toyota isn't the first manufacturer to tackle One Lap of America. This isn't even their first go. In 2016, a Toyota team running a Scion FR-S finished second in class. They also ran a Toyota Sienna minivan. Last year, they ran a 2013 Avalon. Honda engineers have entered in years past using an Odyssey, although that van was far from stock, thanks to a turbocharger and intercooler fitted to the 3.5L V6 as well as a six-speed manual transmission. In 2015, they entered a very highly modified Acura MDX. The same year, BMW ran an X6M.
The event started last Friday and ends this Saturday.