That Time Toyota Argued Its Fuel Tank Was The Trunk For Le Mans GT1 Rules

Grace Higgins | October 12th, 2020

It’s quite funny that Toyota the creators of such regular family cars as the Camry or the RAV4 also built some of the wildest cars in motorsport history. Especially when they were focused on using the rules as loopholes. One of the projects that pushed the limits further than any other was the 1998 GT1-class homologation special. Codenamed the TS020, and referred to as the Toyota GT-One.

Toyota still keeps one as proof that they did build strange motorcars back in the day. You now find it in a vault in Cologne, Germany in the motorsport’s division headquarters. And it has many funny stories to tell. For example, at the time the GT1 class rules book stated that any racing version of the car had to also have a regular road-going version. Essentially, racing cars also had to be road legal. However, the rulebook was especially vague on how strict one had to follow these guidelines. Something Toyota would regularly take to its advantage.

During the 1990s this meant that many of these races were filled with prototypes that claimed to be road ready such as the Porsche 911 GT1 and the Mercedes CLK GTR. So Toyota jumped in to try to win the competition. So this small window in history gave birth to some of the strangest racing cars that were supposed to have functional street counterparts. Many teams like Toyota would build its car with a track first attitude and then would figure out how to pass the compliance later. This type of rule-bending gave birth to some strange vehicles.

One of the funniest requirements was GT1 cars had to have a compartment to fit a suitcase, basically, they needed a trunk. First Mercedes didn’t put a hatch on the trunk compartment to save weight. After Toyota saw this they took it one step further, eliminating the truck completely. When questioned by officials they argued that the empty fuel tank could hold a suitcase. Amazingly, the regulators agreed that was fine! Because nothing in the rules said you actually had to be able to place a suitcase in the trunk.

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