CHRIS HODGETTS AND SON STEFAN TO RACE TOYOTA GT86
- Chris Hodgetts, double BTCC champion with Toyota in the 1980s, joins the driver line-up for Team Toyota GB’s GT86 in the Britcar 24 Hours
- Hodgetts to be joined in the four-man squad by his son, Stefan
- First UK race for Toyota’s acclaimed new sports coupe
- Britcar race to take place at Silverstone on 22 and 23 September
Double British Touring Car Champion Chris Hodgetts is to return to competition and to Team Toyota GB next month when he teams up with his son, Stefan, to give the Toyota GT86 its British racing debut.
They will help crew the Team Toyota GB GT86 in the UK’s toughest race, the Britcar 24 Hours, at Silverstone.
Hodgetts Senior, 61, was the BTCC victor in 1986 and ’87 in a Corolla. Although he hasn’t competed for 13 years and last raced a Toyota in 1988, he is relishing the return: “It’s a fantastic opportunity, not just to return to racing but also to be reunited with Team Toyota GB and to have the chance to share a car with my son for the first time. I can’t wait.”
Chris has maintained his racing licence since he called time on his sports car career in 1998 and is to be found at a circuit every weekend of the season testing cars and coaching young drivers. One of those whose career Chris has guided is 30-year-old Stefan, a race winner in the Clio Cup this year.
“I was four or five when dad was winning the BTCC in his Toyota and I remember it vividly,” said Stefan. “It’s a great connection to the past for me and a fantastic opportunity, and I think my team-mate is a safe and sensible sort of guy who will hand over the GT86 in one piece.”
Both men know well the special demands of endurance racing. Stefan has competed in a 25-hour ‘Fun Cup’ race at Spa, while Chris is a veteran of six Le Mans round-the-clock races, two at Daytona and two at Spa.
“I think the last time I raced a Toyota was the 1988 Spa 24 Hours,” said Chris. “We retired eight minutes from the end while leading our class.”
Chris recently visited the Buckingham workshops of GPRM, where the Britcar GT86 is taking shape under the guidance of Roger King and Gary Blackham: “There was the new car and alongside it was a replica of my old AE86 Corolla, all in its old livery. I admit I shed a tear. It’s so wonderful to be reunited – I may be 61 but I still feel 31 and some would say I act like I was 21,” he said.
“I have known Roger and Gary for many years and I know that given their skills, the GT86 will be reliable and great to drive. I see no reason why it shouldn’t be competitive too.”
The Team Toyota GB entry will have a crew of four: Chris and Stefan are joined by journalist Richard Meaden, who has experience racing an Aston Martin in 24-hour events, and by Dan Trent, editor of Pistonheads motoring website.
Powered by a 16-valve double overhead cam horizontally opposed ‘boxer’ engine delivering 197bhp, the Toyota GT86 captures some of the best elements of three models from Toyota’s rich sporting heritage: the Sports 800, 2000GT and Corolla GT (AE86). It went on sale in the UK at the beginning of July and has attracted wide critical acclaim.
The Britcar 24 Hours is the only round-the-clock race held in Britain for sports and GT cars and last year it attracted a 55-car field. The action takes place on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit over the weekend of 22 and 23 September.
Team Toyota GB earned fame in the 1980s and ’90s thanks to championship victories with the Corolla in the British Touring Car Championship and UK rallying. The team’s last appearance was in the BTCC in 1995 with the Carina E, raced by Julian Bailey and Tim Sugden.