Toyota has totally embraced the cult following that the drifting scene is currently enjoying by inviting six top-level drift cars and drivers for a short exhibition run on the main straight. Drivers like Orido, Ueno, Imamura and Kunny showed off their skills in their Toyota drift cars by slaloming around parked cars and showing what 600 hp can do to tires! On the main paddock area an impressive number of 2000GT owners brought their immaculate historic cars to show off and drive on a special parade lap along with the numerous Sports 800 micro cars on show. To mourn the fact that Toyota is killing off yet another popular sports car, the MR-S, a special stand was dedicated to its long history both on and off the road. A final limited edition celebratory model was presented. It will be on sale until the end of the year.
The main track action got under way as Ralf Schumacher took the F1 car for a few hot laps, even under the wet weather conditions. Special mention has to go to the traction control and launch control systems these cars run that allows them to use optimal grip from a standstill, even with over 700 hp coming from a compact 600-kg curb weight! Ukyo Katayama took the TS020 for a few fast laps, showing off the amazing power of the Le Mans racer as he spun the rear wheels in almost all gears on the wet track. To give spectators a good indication of the difference of speed between cars of different classes, a Super GT LS was lined up against a Formula Nippon racer on a quarter mile where it proceeded to be beaten by the lighter machine. The Formula Nippon car was then crushed by the TS020, which was in turn completely eaten up by the Moto GP Yamaha. Abe, on the bike, then went against Ralf Schumacher who managed to show what an F1 can do by winning the challenge hands down. As a surprise, Toyota invited the Williams F1 team with their new 2007 F1 car, which runs a Toyota engine, to parade around the circuit with Nakajima (son of the famous F1 driver) at the wheel. The relatively inexperienced driver proved just how hard it is to handle one of these beasts in the wet, as he kept locking up and overshooting corners and ended his lap by spinning and almost stalling the engine. We hope this is not a prelude to his rookie year in the 2007 F1 season! Yet another surprise was in store for the crowds: the 2007 Super GT works LS430 was taken out for a quick lap. The car, still under development, was wearing a bare carbon-fiber body and had been redesigned since the 2006 version.
All in all, Toyota put on a great show for its fans. It was a well-organized event with plenty of action and entertainment for the whole family. After seeing so much tasty machinery on show, we can't wait for the 2007 racing season to get started!