Wide-body Toyota Corolla might be the most badass touring car of 2019
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The British Touring Car Championship doesn't really get much airplay in New Zealand — despite a Kiwi-owned team winning titles constantly (Dick Bennetts' West Surrey Racing squad, that is).
Back in the '90s, it felt like the BTCC's following here was bettered only by the Formula 1 and the V8 Supercars. This was in part down to Paul Radisich and Craig Baird flying the Kiwi flag, but probably more so because of the remarkable cars that were raced. Based on 'rep mobile' boredom wagons like the Peugeot 406 and Honda Accord, each car was about as modified as a touring car can be while still maintaining those 'production based' roots. They were all different, too, with rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, V6s, 5-pots, and four-bangers all scattered across the grid.
That era is somewhat gone, but the cars are still pretty dang neat — as evidenced by the category's newest four-wheeled recruit.
This beasty is the car of Speedworks Motorsport and driver Tom Ingram. Based on the new-gen Toyota Corolla, it will sport factory backing from Toyota Great Britain. This is something of a coup in its own right, given that the Japanese brand haven't raced in the series since the '90s with the Carina.
And their returning vehicle is a pretty aggro looking bit of kit. The aggressive front bar from the standard car clearly made for a nice base when it came to fashioning an aero kit. The slashes either side of the headlights have been widened to accommodate the front of the car's body wide-body kit.
Click here for the full road test of the Toyota Corolla Hybrid
At the rear meanwhile the fake vents on the flanks of the rear bumper are now covered by ... uhh ... actual vents. A rear wing big enough that NASA would be proud of it juts out of the boot-lid. All in all, it makes for a much more attractive package than the big blobby Avensis sedan that Ingram's raced for several seasons.
As a product of the BTCC's 'Next Generation Touring Car' (NGTC) regulations, the Corolla has to follow a raft of mechanical rules — namely based around engine capacity and output, dimensions, and mandatory use of control parts like an Xtrac 6-speed sequential gearbox.
Engines aren't a 'control' unit per se, but they are capped to being turbocharged 2.0-litre units with 300bhp. The series offers its own TOCA-built engine for teams that want it, but most make their own using the production engine as a base. Cars can be front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive according to the format of their road-going equivalent.
Ingram actually has a solid shot of claiming a title next year too if his team can get their head around the new car in early rounds. He's won the Independents driver title across the last two seasons — finishing second in this season just gone (West Surrey Racing's Colin Turkington took the crown).
“Having dreamt about racing in the BTCC since I was a little boy, the past five years have been something of a whirlwind for me, if I’m totally honest," said Ingram.
"What we have accomplished as a small Independent outfit – particularly over the last two seasons – has been nothing short of mind-blowing, and demonstrates just what this little team is made of.
"To attract the support of a major manufacturer is a phenomenal achievement and huge credit must go to Christian and Amy [Dick – Team Manager], who have worked their absolute socks off to pull this deal together.”
This isn't the first time that the new Corolla has been used as a somewhat unorthadox base for motorsport coolness. Fredric Aasbø runs a 1000hp rear-wheel drive version in Formula Drift USA. That whole sentence might sound strange, but Aasbø won on debut with it this year and eventually finished second in the points.
With all this focus on motorsport, maybe a hot hatch version is a good idea after all. What do you say, Toyota?