From the UK’s most-watched race series, the BTCC, to the roots of British club motorsport, Toyota drivers enjoyed a successful and exciting season of track competition in 2011.
Frank Wrathall’s progress in his maiden season of competition in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship was the highlight of the year, not least because it marked the successful introduction to the championship of the exciting new ‘Next Generation Touring Car’ built-in-Britain Toyota Avensis.
Equipped with a 2.0-litre turbocharged Toyota engine specially developed for racing, Wrathall’s Avensis was prepared for the track by Dynojet Racing and, after half a season of development and bedding in, became a regular frontrunner. Frank, 25 and from Lancashire, scored four podium finishes, with a best result of second, on his way to claiming championship 12th and the coveted ‘Rookie of the Year’ title.
“The Toyota turned out to be far better than I ever dared hope,” said Frank, “and that is all thanks to the team around me and the hard work that everyone put in. They have done a brilliant job for me all year; I can’t fault them, they’ve been absolutely fantastic.”
Wrathall paid tribute also to the BTCC fans, who voted him their favourite driver of the season in an online poll: “The support we have had from day one, when we were struggling to finish races, has meant a lot, not just to me but to everyone at Dynojet Racing.”
Toyota Sprint Series 2011
Formed from an obsession for Toyota cars, the Sprint Series is designed to be an affordable step in motorsport for Toyota and Lexus owners regardless of vehicle age or modifications. It is designed to be as safe as possible while providing a challenge for drivers of all levels looking to enhance their road or track driving abilities. For 2011 the competition couldn’t have been closer, which ended its season with two Celica drivers – Adrian Smith and Jonny Milner – tied on points, each having scored 403 out of a maximum 405. The tie-break went Smith’s way by dint of his victory in the first round at Rockingham.
On his way to his second successive championship title, Smith and his 660bhp Fensport Celica GT4X won three of the six events and placed second to Milner in the other three. “We have made only small changes to the car this year but it has made the world of difference,” said Adrian. “The Celica is an absolute joy to drive – the smaller turbo housing we installed has helped with early power delivery and the new PPG gearbox has transformed it. I’m very happy to have won the series and have thoroughly enjoyed the fight with Jonny.”
Series class winners were Nigel Levinson (Celica GT4, A2 Pro); Andrew Falkingham (Celica GT4, A3 Pro); Dave Ellen (IS350, A2 Street); Ash Simpson (Celica GT4, A3 Street); Barrie Newsome (Starlet Turbo, B Pro); Paul Thomas (Supra, C Pro); Tim Cogman (Yaris, F Pro) and Dan Quinn (Yaris, F Street).
Toyota MR2 Championship
More than 60 competitors raced their Toyota MR2s in the 750 Motor Club run championship, which took in 13 races at Brands Hatch, Snetterton, Mallory Park, Donington Park, Silverstone, Pembrey and Cadwell Park.
James Cross, who finished eighth overall in 2010, was the form driver this season; he collected four race wins on his way to championship victory by a four-point margin over Paul Hinson, who won three rounds. There were race wins also for former BTCC driver Eugene O’Brien, and for Roland Wilkinson and Steve Lumley. Cross took the Class B championship honours in addition to the overall crown, with Nina Fountain the Class A overall victor and Simon Phillips the Class C title winner. Best-placed novice was Matthew Palmer.
James Cross also claimed a brace of wins in the new-for-2011 MR2 Super GT Series; Alric Kitson was the most consistent race victor of the season with four wins to Patrick Mortell’s three.
Britcar Endurance Racing
Patrick Mortell’s supercharged MR2, prepared for the track by Rogue Motorsport, made another assault on the UK’s toughest race, the Britcar 24 Hours, in September. Piloted by Mortell, Simon Aris, Alric Kitson and Lee McKee, the car was fitted with a 3.5-litre V6 Lexus-engine instead of the normal 1.8-litre road version. The extra power and torque made the car faster, but a lack of pre race testing saw niggling reliability issues including a fuel pump failure 10 minutes from the end which robbed the team of taking the chequered flag – to be classified 39th overall and 17th in class.