A Toyota Gazoo Racing Celebration in the Heart of Midtown Manhattan

Photography: Mike Maravilla / Sam Du

  • Toyota owned the automotive news airwaves last week as they released limited edition models of the 2024 GR86, GR Supra, and GR Corolla.
  • Formula DRIFT pro drivers Frederic Aasbo, Ryan Tuerck, Ken Gushi, and Jhonnattan Castro, along with 120 media guests, converged in Manhattan for the reveal party.
  • The three-hour affair featured live a DJ, cocktails (including a Morizo martini), freshly-prepared sushi, and a build-your-own LEGO GR racecar driver station.
  • The celebration reinforced Toyota’s commitment to the Gazoo Racing brand in North America as it enters its fourth year since the introduction of the GR Supra.

Special Edition Trio

Last week, Toyota USA made some noise across the automotive world as it launched three special edition GR models for the 2024 lineup. We were one of the very few lucky media outlets to arrange a one-on-one photoshoot with the GR trio ahead of its reveal at the Toyota New York Regional Office in Caldwell, New Jersey. 

In a nutshell, all three vehicles are comprised of minor styling changes and will be offered in small, limited-edition runs. The GR86 Trueno Edition pays homage to the black-and-white panda color scheme made popular by the AE86 Corolla in Initial D (only 860 will be produced). The GR Supra 45th Anniversary adds an adjustable rear wing, orange paint option, and will be offered in both auto and manual (only 900 will be produced). Lastly, the GR Corolla Circuit Edition is currently available this year, but Toyota is bringing it back for 2024 with a Blue Flame color option and BBS wheels (only 1,600 will be produced).

Manhattan GR Party

Following our photoshoot, Mike Maravilla and I made our way into Midtown Manhattan where we checked out a pop-up Toyota party at the Hudson Mercantile featuring the three special edition GR cars. In attendance was a guest list of 120 media as well as all four Toyota’s pro drift drivers. It just so happens that Toyota planned the launch of these vehicles to coincide with the Formula DRIFT New Jersey round, allowing Frederic Aasbo, Ryan Tuerck, Ken Gushi, and Jhonnattan Castro to hang out with guests.

I’ve been to a lot of OEM events and parties; however, this three-hour reveal was one of the more enjoyable ones that I’ve been to. Most manufacturer reveals take place around national and global auto shows with executives in suits with pinkies out. The Toyota GR party was a cool and calm hangout with delicious sushi and noodles served, casual cocktails including a “Morizo Martini”, and there was even a build-your-own GR driver LEGO station. It was the first day of summer, which brought the casual and fun vibe of the event, but in the end, the only thing on people’s minds was the eye-catching GR cars under the lights.

Gazoo Racing in the U.S.A.

As a long-time performance car enthusiast, I’m pretty biased and critical. So if I had to be super honest, the special edition GR models revealed last week didn’t excite me as they probably should have. Take away the fact that they are “limited edition”, remove the special names, and we’re looking at mostly new colors, stickers, and minor accessories. I can relate with everyone here that we all want more meat whenever an OEM introduces a new car or trim level; however, I can’t be a hater and do feel we have to give credit where credit is due. 

Four years ago, I was glued to the hip of Toyota engineers and planners to gather as much info as I could about the fifth-generation Supra. It wasn’t until the very last few moments that it was decided that TRD wouldn’t be associated with the Supra and that the Gazoo Racing brand would be adopted for the first time in North America. As a motorsports fan, I was stoked, but internally in Toyota, this was still a gamble. It has taken time for the GR badge to stick with enthusiasts, and even with the GR86 arriving two years ago, folks were still wary of the fact that Toyota had two sports cars, but both weren’t true-bred Toyotas. The GR Supra shared DNA with BMW and the GR86 still starts production from Subaru.

While both cars are undoubtedly well-engineered and fun-to-drive rear-wheel-drive sports cars, it wasn’t until the coming of the GR Corolla, that we all felt like Gazoo Racing had finally arrived in North America. The all-wheel-drive, rally-bred hot hatchback was a byproduct of the homologated GR Yaris and was made up of nothing, but components stamped with Toyota and Gazoo Racing. Coupled with the strong GR push in Formula DRIFT, all cylinders are now finally firing for Toyota GR. So, while I might be overly critical of the special edition models that debuted last week, there’s no other manufacturer out there that’s shown a commitment to their flagship sports car lineup like Toyota. Trust me, I’ve tried to love what Honda and Nissan are doing with the Civic Type R and new Z, but the passion just isn’t there, which is why you’ll continue to see more and more performance car fans joining Team GR, myself included now the proud owner of two of them!


 

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