The GT-86 Cup; Customer Racing at The Ring!

As a part of my trip to visit the lovely folks over at TMG, they arranged a taxi ride for me around the Nurburgring in one of their VLN customer team’s GT-86 cup cars. Developed in house at TMG, the customer GT-86 cup races in VLN around the legendary Nurburgring. So, how does it feel from the passenger seat? Oh, and did I mention they threw me in the passenger seat during a VLN session? Yeah, it was all a tad special.
Yes, it wasn’t until we reached the ring on Friday that Alastair, my lovely PR contact, showed his full hand about what I was going to experience. For the entire time leading up to the trip, I was under the impression that I was going out during some tourist laps to get a feel of the car. But what I actually got was a side seat in a race car, during a VLN session, on the most terrifying track in the world. Easy, right?
Well, as I suited up in the bit too large race suit supplied to me, the thoughts started to assault me. I was going out with everything from ancient Opel’s, to the brand new AMG GT GT3 run by Black Falcon Racing. That’s scary on a track like this. The track is already a terrifying prospect, take some control out of it, and then add in a ton of other race cars. I was a little stressed out.

But, ignoring all that, there are some facts about the car that I should run down. You take an off the shelf GT-86, completely gut it, add gratuitous beautiful carbon aero work, tune, fun exhaust, Bilstein suspension, and a beautiful cage. It takes the already potent base car, and elevates it to a level that is fitting for the deadly ‘Ring. It’s a truly impressive package, and with the cost of entry still staying low, and the cost to run being the lowest I’ve ever seen for a full race car, I honestly expect more of these to show up as the program goes on. Adding this much performance onto and already great car is a feat that I really have to applaud the folks over at TMG for.

Oh, and one more cool thing before I get onto some thoughts about my lap. Worried that with a customer only program that the car won’t get the support it needs to really run competitively? Well, don’t worry. TMG runs an off the clock team called TMG United for those at the factory to be closer to racing. Combine that with the abundance of spares brought to each VLN special, and you really get the feeling that TMG is full behind this project.
Now here we go, my lap. After taking a few quick photos with the car and strapping in, the nerves really set in as we cued up to leave the pits. As we got ready to launch onto the Nurburgring GP circuit, on our way to the larger track, I had to trust my driver, the car, and more importantly, the other drivers on the circuit to not murder me. Diving out of the pits the car felt very much like a normal 86 in terms of power and delivery. Not too fast, but still quick. It wasn’t until we started really diving into the corners that you feel all of the extra aero and mechanical grip that this car offers.
And despite getting buzzed by a few GT cars early on in the lap, nothing too frightening happened. That was, until we dived left down onto the Nordschleife. Then all of the years of video games and watching racing there kicked in, and I knew what I was up against. All I had to do was hold on, and try not to panic.
And honestly? It was one of the most amazing things I have ever done. Never before could I really get the experience and mania of multi-class racing. The dance of passing slower cars, and having to dodge out of the way of the full bore GT3 machines. It was sublime. Never have I felt more alive than the run through the full course. Not even coming across a Cayman in the wall ahead of us could put a dent in my mood.

As we dove into the pits I could only shakily thank my driver, try not to dome myself getting out of the car, and stumble over to Alastair and let a stream of expletives fall from my mouth. I spent the next half hour in quiet contemplation, trying to let my adrenaline fall to a level where I could fully communicate what I had just experienced. I know I will probably never get a track experience like this.
The car and track are both more impressive in person than I could have ever thought. The folks over at TMG really have a great program going, and I can’t imagine these race cars won’t make it to the states in one form or another. Especially with the success that Mazda has had with the new MX-5 Cup car. A perfect car for new racers, or the gentlemen who wants to race in a car he can really get the most out of.
[Disclaimer: Thanks to everyone at TMG for the ride, paying my way to Germany, and providing photos and videos for my time at the ring.]

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  1. crank_case Avatar

    Well this is a coincidence… last Friday I got a passenger spin in s GT86 that was apparently commisioned by Toyota for a one make UK race series which never went ahead. My two over riding impressions were: Phenomenal brakes, and just how planted and secure it seemed. Not planted in a static sort of way, but where most cars where you’re a passenger, and the driver slides, you giggle but hope he gathers it up in time, but this, when it’s sliding, feels like most cars do when they’ve got grip. Just such a natural smooth transition of weight. You’re sideways, but it;s like “this is grand, lets stay here a bit, maybe have a picnic or something…”
    (I also got to share driving a caged up 2zz MR-S for the day which was pretty sweet)