The rally world has been moving towards compact and fuel efficient 2wd cars in the last few years. This makes the sport more affordable for teams and are more relevant to what the manufacturers are selling. A good example would be the Ford Fiesta ST. As good as these cars are, many fans have said that this new era has taken away some of the “ spectacle” of rally racing and long for the days in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when the rear wheel drive Ford Escort Mark II dominated rallying. The modern front wheel drive hot hatch just doesn’t drift sideways like the rear wheel drive cars of yesteryear.
Then at a 2011 auto show in Tokyo we were introduced to the Toyota GT86 that was due to hit the market in the 2013 model year. The world has been abuzz about this sporty new GT86 that was jointly developed between Toyota and Subaru and affectionately dubbed the “Toyobaru”. Reviewers have stated that the Subaru boxer engine provides a low center of gravity and great balance that combined with its awesome handling and the excitement of rear wheel drive brought the fun back to driving. In my area dealers can hardly get the cars off the trucks before they are sold and local tracks have seen a flood of these new sport coups at auto-crosses and open track days.
So what does this have to do with rallying? Quite a bit actually. As I said, rally has been trying hard to have both relevance and add excitement. Engineers in all parts of the world quickly jumped onto the GT86 platform and started to design upgrades suitable for motorsports including drifting and rallying. Last year the Japanese Rally Championship used a Subaru BRZ as a “zero” car in a tarmac rally setup, and Mark Higgins (brother to multiple Rally America Champion David Higgins) tested a Subaru BRZ at the Manx Rally on the Isle of Man tarmac in June of last year. Those were some great tests, but I still have yet to hear of a GT86 / BRZ actually compete in a stage rally on tarmac or gravel.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when it was announced that Toyota New Zealand’s TR86, the motorsport version of the new GT86 would make its first appearance on gravel at the International Rally of Whangarei in New Zealand. This would be the first gravel rally edition of the GT86 that many were hoping for, but alas it was still just the double zero course car.
And then came an announcement a couple weeks ago from Australian Rally Championship driver Will Orders. It said they formed a new partnership with Nameless Performance, a well known custom fabrication company based in the small town of La Center, Washington. They make all kinds of parts for tuners and rally teams alike. In the announcement it stated that Will Orders and long time co-driver Toni Feaver will compete at the Nameless Performance Stage Rally (formerly the Olympus Rally) in a specially modified GT86 in full gravel spec http://www.rally.com.au/arc-news/nameless-gets-team-orders . Later that week Jason Griffith from Nameless posted some details of the car specs and a picture on Facebook “We’re up to no good – full GR2/GR5 GT86 Rally Car Build. Sequential RD6 Holinger 6 Speed, Twin Scroll, 54mm Inverted Monotube Gravel Coilovers All Around, Custom Subframes, Quick Change Winters Differential, Etc. More to come.” Unless someone can prove me wrong, I believe this will be the first competing gravel spec GT86 rally car in the world.
In the Australian article it eludes to Will Orders and the GT86 competing in the Rally America Championship for part of 2013 and in 2014. So this is obviously a big commitment by Nameless, Will Orders, and their sponsors. The debut at the Nameless Performance Rally, which is not part of Rally America, will probably be used as a shakedown for the new car and team with actual Rally America events to follow.
If you recall last year Will Orders and his teammate Ross Allen brought their Summit Rally Team turbo-charged Nissan Silvia’s from Australia to compete in the Rally America Championship. Their fire breathing Nissan Silvias produced over 400HP to the rear wheels, and trust me you could hear them coming! Unfortunately mechanical issues plagued the Summit Rally Team’s season and the results didn’t reflect the performance they had on the stages. However when their Silvia ran well, Will Orders and Toni Feaver ran it to victory. They took took first place at their debut at the 2012 Oregon Trail Rally and also won the New England Forest Rally.
I have no doubt that with Will Orders’ experience with high horsepower rear wheel drive machinery will make him competitive provided they don’t have any mechanical difficulties with such a new car. I’ll be up there watching the introduction of this new GT86 rally edition and I hope it proves to the fans that this car has the potential to be just as iconic as the famed Escort Mark II. If the new GT86 can perform and sound as good as those Silvias, then its a sure winner for rally fans. If you are in the area and want to check it out, come to the Nameless Performance Stage Rally June 21-23 outside of Shelton, WA. http://www.namelessrally.com/