What is Toyota Gazoo Racing?
Everything you need to get up to speed on Toyota's new performance division.
If you feel like you’ve suddenly been hearing a lot about Gazoo Racing, you’re not alone. So, what exactly is it?
How it All Started
It’s primarily a racing division within Toyota, but its origin is somewhat convoluted. When Akio Toyoda—president of Toyota Motor Corporation and grandson of the company’s founder—was coming up through the ranks he founded and oversaw the website gazoo.com. It was the early days of internet commerce, circa 2000, and the site was a clearinghouse for images of vehicles on stock at each of Toyota’s dealerships. The name “Gazoo” derived from the Japanese word “gaz,” which means image or photo. Though such websites are commonplace today, it was revolutionary at a time when internet technology was in its infancy.
Toyoda Went Racing
Fast forward to 2007 when Toyoda founded a racing team to compete in the Nürburgring 24 Hours race. Though the aim was to race Toyota cars and help seed the company’s presence in motorsports, it wasn’t allowed to use the Toyota name. Thus Gazoo Racing was born. The team campaigned a pair of Japanese-market Toyota Altezzas (essentially the Lexus IS 300 sold in the U.S.), but because the model had just been discontinued, Gazoo Racing had to source them on the used market. Composed of enthusiasts from within Toyota, Akio Toyoda himself, and the company’s top driver, Hiromu Naruse, the young team competed in a discontinued Toyota product against carmakers who were racing the latest and greatest future cars. That’s dedication.
With or without official approval, the brand quietly spawned racing divisions across the world, from Argentina to Australia and China to South Africa, and more. Now officially endorsed by Toyota, Gazoo Racing is bigger than ever, competing in everything from the FIA World Rally Championship, and the FIA World Endurance Championship, to the Dakar Rally, and the Nürburgring 24 Hours – where its entries now bear the name “Toyota Gazoo.”
From the Racetrack to the Showroom
The “GR” Gazoo Racing badge first started to appear on high-performance versions of production cars overseas – the current GR Yaris that spawned the U.S.-market GR Corolla might ring a bell. But it was the launch of the fifth-generation 2019 GR Supra that brought the name to use in the U.S. Much like Mercedes-Benz does with its AMG sub-brand, Toyota is now leaning into the Gazoo nameplate with three U.S. models: the GR86, the GR Supra, and the upcoming GR Corolla. Though the three have differing missions, it’s easy to spot the high level of development that they share.
The GR Corolla is the brand’s rally-inspired hatchback. Though it looks similar to lesser Corollas, the GR is an entirely different thing with all-wheel drive and a turbocharged, three-cylinder engine putting out 300 horsepower. The GR86, meanwhile, is the low-slung, rear-wheel-drive sports car formerly known as the Scion FR-S, prized for offering a distilled driving experience. Lastly, the GR Supra is the outright fastest of the three, with a choice of two turbocharged engines and making a maximum 382 horsepower.
Future Gazoo Racing Models
Expect to see a lot more of the nameplate as recognition builds. Already in Japan there’s a diluted sporty trim offering called “GR Sport” similar to Audi’s “S-Line” or BMW’s “M Sport” line, offering packages on six common vehicles. It’s anyone’s guess whether Gazoo Racing will displace TRD, which stands for Toyota Racing Development, the company’s in-house tuning shop offering performance parts and dedicated trim levels for Toyota and Lexus vehicles. According to a source at Toyota, Gazoo can be thought of as the more hard-core engineering arm. If they’ve breathed on your Toyota, it’s likely to be a higher-performing machine, but also a more refined one.