Any 24 hour race in motorsport is tough. Entering the race with a brand new car makes it even tougher, but it’s this task that lies ahead of Toyota Team GB this weekend at Silverstone.
After months of preparation the GPR Motorsports built Toyota GT86 took to the Silverstone track for the first time last week for a shakedown in the hands of father and son Chris and Stefan Hodgetts, with the two drivers completing the team for this weekend’s Britcar 24 Hours only getting their first laps behind wheel days before the competitive meeting kicks off.
Joining tin-top star Stefan and father Chris – twice a BTCC champion for Toyota in the 1980s – are race/journalist Richard Meaden and Neil Primrose, a regular in historic racing as well as drummer for Travis.
“It was very good first time out,” said the elder Hodgetts. “Stefan loved the car too. They were cautious ‘installation’ laps, just making sure everything was OK, but I started to get a move on later on. It was very quick through the Becketts complex, which was pleasing. There is more work to do to get it how we want it, but the basics are there and I can’t wait to get going at the weekend.”
The responsibility for building the car running the team fell to Gary Blackham and Roger King of GPR, the firm that brought Toyota’s Avensis design to the British Touring Car Championship as the first of the NGTC spec machines in 2011. Both say the build from road car race car as gone well, Blackham adding the experience of a positive test in which the car “was quick straight out of the box.”
However, the reality of attempting such a tough race as a first hurdle is not lost on Blackham. “To finish the race is the main aim,” he admits. “I don’t want to raise any expectations of where we might finish, because the GT86 has never raced before and we simply don’t know what to expect.”
The team’s weekend is further complicated as both of the Hodgetts pairing will be shuttling the 42 miles between Silverstone and Rockingham, where Stefan will be competing in support of the BTCC, while his father is working as a driver coach.
Team Toyota GB will not be the marque’s only representatives in the race. Martin Short’s Rollcentre Racing team are running in the same class with another GT86.
The Checkered Flag will have full coverage of the Britcar 24 weekend. Qualifying starts at 1pm on Friday, with a two hour night session starting at 7pm.
The race begins at 3:30pm on Saturday September 22.