The driver of a modern BTCC Avensis gets behind the wheel of an AE86.
Thirty years ago, an unlikely car won the UK's top touring car series. The Corolla GT beat out far more powerful rivals in the 1986-87 seasons, and Toyota is now marking the occasion.
Europeans seem to enjoy seeing young drivers in race cars of the past. In this case, Tom Ingram, current British Touring Car Championship driver of a Toyota Avensis, gets a turn in the drivers seat of the Corolla GT, a car built before he was born.
The Corolla GT, known as the Corolla GT-S in the US and as the AE86 worldwide from its legions of fans, was the last rear-wheel-drive Corolla. With four-wheel disc brakes, fuel-injection, a high-revving 4-valve-per-cylinder twin-cam 1.6-liter, and superb handling, it was an understated performance car sold alongside more pedestrian front-drive Corolla sedans. In the 1980s, it became a pioneer of the illegal races on Japan's twisty mountain roads where drifting began. Its AE86 chassis code was the namesake of the current Toyota 86.
In what was then called the British Saloon Car Championships (nowadays known as BTCC, or British Touring Car Championships) it was classified as Class C, which had a maximum displacement of 1.6 liters. However, with Chris Hodgetts behind the wheel, the car bested far more powerful rivals — including the BMW 635CSi, Ford Escort RS Turbo, Ford Capri III 3.0S, Ford Sierra XR4Ti, Mitsubishi Starion, Alfa Romeo GTV6, Renault 5 Turbo, and Toyota's own Supra — to clinch the overall driver's championships in 1986. The following year, a rules shuffle reclassified the Corolla GT as a Class D car, but Hodgetts was able to reclaim the driver's title in his class.
Ingram seems to enjoy his time driving a race car that was not too far off from what a customer could've bought from Toyota a showroom back in the day. Sadly, the car depicted in these videos from Toyota are not the actual championship car. It is a replica, as the real car's whereabouts are unknown today.