Toyota will wait until next year to give the new GR Supra GT4 its first competitive outing, according to TMG vice president Rob Leupen.
Back in June, when Toyota first acknowledged the project, Leupen told Sportscar365 that a late 2019 or early 2020 debut was on the cards.
While the project’s development has progressed since then, the later option for the car’s first race appearance has been chosen, in part because of delays stemming from its co-development between Toyota’s TMG motorsport branch and BMW.
The two automotive giants collaborated on the design of the new road-going Supra and the latest edition of the BMW Z4, resulting in several shared parts including the engine.
When asked when the GR Supra GT4 will race for the first time, Leupen said, “not this year”.
“We are testing this year and it might be, if it all goes well, that we do a customer testing [session] so we invite some potential customers to try it,” he explained. “But it will not go to a race this year.
“We think we want to [give the car its debut] in a GT4-only race. I don’t think we will run the car in the VLN, but we are interested in ADAC and [SRO Europe] GT4, so this is where we would like to have the GT4 car.
“We will see if there are teams that are interested to run it for us. This is where we are now in the selection procedure.”
The Supra GT4 is set for a limited rollout in its first year of global competition, but Leupen affirmed that extensive testing has been carried out over the summer.
“We tested a few weeks ago at Spa,” he confirmed. “Jose Maria [Lopez] is one of the test drivers and is experienced in touring cars as well as LMP1. He’s doing well.
“Stephane Ortelli is also doing a lot of mileage in it, and the feedback from those two is good.
“We’ve got drivers coming through who have done a lot of VLN races, and we are also testing with them.
“The [customer] interest seems to be high, so we are positive. We will only start with a limited number of cars in Europe at first and then wait for the announcement which will come soon for distribution, where it will go, and when and how we will start.”
Supra GT4 Presenting “New Learning Curve”
Leupen explained that the project’s background association with BMW has “been a lesson” for the Toyota race car development team based in Cologne.
“The [road] car was developed between Toyota and BMW and is produced in Austria,” he said.
“If you have this co-operation, you have to make all things clear that intellectual property is respected, that warranty, guarantees and liabilities are all in place.
“This [GT4 project] took more time because it’s not a pure Toyota product like the Yaris WRC which is developed for the purpose of rallying.
“We had a big pressure with the development team to catch up on the time [because they] are working with different systems that they are used to from Toyota or Lexus cars.
“Sometimes we would need to circumvent [something] or we would have to do some development. In this case, we do our own system instead of the system which comes from the OEM.
“It was a new learning curve for us because we had almost the convenience not to be involved in this kind of thing, on the one side.
“On the other side, it’s something we learned because of working with a big car manufacturer and to see how they are handling these kinds of projects.
“For us, as a racing company or an R&D company, it’s been a lesson. Here we have to learn to be patient, and then we can speed up the development.”
BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt, meanwhile, believes the GR Supra GT4’s development process has been “normal” in the case of a car converted from a production model with a multi-manufacturer background.
“As the GT4, it’s very much based on the production car, and very much of it is done by BMW,” Marquardt told Sportscar365.
“I was the link on the TMG side of things because I know quite a few people there and acted as the matchmaker between the relevant departments within BMW, so that things could go a little easier and quicker.
“It has been the normal process, I would say, in a collaboration for a car on that level.”