Hello Toyota GR86: would you buy a car from a racing driver?
People are taking desperate measures to acquire Top Gear mag’s 2022 Sports Car of the Year. Even as Toyota finds a few more to offer to people patiently queuing on the waiting list. There’s talk of folk scrambling to import one from Japan. Pricey, and such hassle. Of course, you could save yourself the bother – and pay well over the odds. Of the seven Toyota GR86s for sale in the UK at the time of writing, prices stretch from £37,500 to a wince-inducing £48,900.
We’d given up hope of being able to run one for a few months. Toyota’s demonstrator cupboard was bare. Then I heard of a chap who could be tempted out of ‘his’ and into a new Supra. His name? Ricky Collard, British Touring Car Championship driver for Team Speedworks in the GR Corolla. Would you buy a car from a racing driver?
It’s a sweltering afternoon in the pit lane at Snetterton and I’ve turned up on the eve of the race to pinch his sought-after wheels. The TG Garage GR86 is 5,000 miles old, but doesn’t appear to have swapped any paint with any of Ricky’s sworn enemies. Sorry, ‘valued colleagues’. In fact, as Ricky talks me round what he’ll miss, it seems it has lead a charmed life.
“I love this,” he says, gesturing to the patch of suede on the door card. “That’s lovely when you’re just cruising with the window down.” Sorry, what? Since when do touring car nutters care about soft-touch trim? Ricky continues swooning over the little things. “Proper physical climate controls too, love that. The fuel economy’s ridiculous. You’ve got a track toy that you can daily without doing 15mpg.”
I’m incredulous that Ricky pays for his own petrol. No wonder he’s delighted the trip computer proudly reports 35.0mpg. “Honestly, that was me,” he beams. “On the motorway, at 70, it’s outrageous. It’s doing 35-40 per gallon.”
Useful early feedback, but not the introduction I’d expected from a professional speed junkie. Still, good to know he agrees with our running costs verdict...
Sensing my confusion, Ricky talks up the other side of the ‘86’s appeal. "Naturally aspirated, manual, rear-drive – it really feels like one of the last cars of this nature.” Too true. The only front-engined, rear-drive sports cars with manual gearboxes currently for sale in the UK are this, the Mazda MX-5, or a Caterham. A Mustang is a different prospect altogether.
Ricky’s into his stride now. “I like that when the traction control is off, it’s off. You go and drive the new M3 or M5 and they’re big and lumpy. Loads of power, and you can show off with your 0-60 chat at the pub, but you physically can’t extract that. If you have a moment in an M3, you’re eating hospital food. When this starts to let go, it warns you. It doesn’t snap – it slides.”
Then he goes and ruins it by making me feel disgustingly old. “I’m 26 [show-off] and it’s pitched at people like me. I went to Costco, put a trolley-jack and a few crates of bottled water in it. They told me the boot’s sized to fit four tyres. That’s absolute jokes. Imagine turning around to someone and telling them your sports car is designed to carry spare tyres for when you’ve burned yours out. It’s mint.”
Things to watch out for? Ricky agrees the clutch is sharp and easy to stall, and I may need to take out some restraining orders against would be owners. I’m warned: “I’ve had three or four people come up to me while I was in Tesco car park or whatever and say stuff like ‘argh mate I’ve been trying everywhere to get one of these, I bought a GR Yaris as well – what would you sell this for?’”
Enjoy your Supra, Ricky. Nobody tell him, but I reckon I’ve got the better end of the deal here. A nearly-new GR86, wearing £965 of pearlescent white paint. Genuine mileage. Heated seats. One careful owner.
Photography: Alex Tapley