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Group C Tales: Andy Wallace On The Toyota TS010

Toyota's answer to the final Group C ruleset

This piece came out of a call made to 1988 Le Mans 24 Hours winner, three times Daytona 24 Hours, twice Sebring 12 Hours and Petit Le Mans winner (and all-round endurance racing icon) Andy Wallace to put together his contribution to our Best Car, Worst Car, Dream Car series.

That item will follow in the coming days but it’s fair to say that Andy’s recounting of the tale of one of his favourites was just so good, with so much fascinating detail, that the decision to add a more in-depth piece to cover that ground was really not a difficult one to make!

Perhaps surprisingly for some, the car doesn’t come from the era which perhaps most remember Wallace from, the TWR Jaguars which yielded his overall win at Le Mans in 1988.  There was though a common thread to the two, as you’ll read a little later, we’ll let Andy himself take up the story:

“The very last proper Group C race before the three and a half litre cars came, for me was Mexico City in 1990.

“I was driving the turbocharged V6 Jag and I remember at the end of that race, I was in the car at the end, and I came into parc ferme and I didn’t want to get out of the car because I thought you know, this is it, the end of an era it’ll never be like this again (here’s Andy’s XJR11 at the penultimate race at Montreal).

“These cars were amazing especially in terms of power.  We had a lot of power, particularly in qualifying with those cars.

“But then straight after that, we went to the 3.5 litre, 750-kilo Group C cars.

“They were absolutely amazing and, probably to this day, the best car I think I ever drove was the Toyota TS010 3.5 litre Group C car.”

This was the car, designed in 1991 by ex TWR designer Tony Southgate and powered by the high revving normally aspirated Toyota RV10 engine.

There is some amazing video footage of the TOMS Toyota squad testing their cars at Eastern Creek in 1992, which includes a very youthful looking Andy, as well as contributions from then Team Manager Dave ‘Beaky’ Sims?

“The bit you see on YouTube, you hear the car coming down the main straight going through the gears. And then, if you know what you’re listening for, that first corner is completely flat out in top gear at about 310 kilometres an hour, but there’s a bump in the middle. So you hear the car come down the straight into the corner, flat out, no lift, no nothing. And then over the bump, it’s a lovely ground effect car but as it goes up, it loses grip, and then it re-attaches.

“That bump in the middle of the corner was a fairly massive bump from inside the car. So you wouldn’t have broken your ribs if you did a couple of days testing there but we did nine days straight.

“So it was a Saturday, Sunday, all week and the following Saturday, Sunday. And the last Sunday was the 29th of February 1992.

“We had two cars testing. One car was trying to do performance testing, and the other one was doing endurance stuff. And I drew the short straw with Hitoshi Ogawa and Kenny Acheson in my car.

(The highly rated Ogawa would go on to win the first race of the 1992 World Sportscar Championship in the TS010 alongside Geoff Lees after last-minute dramas for Yannick Dalmas’s Peugeot – Ogawa’s huge talent though was extinguished in a tragic accident in a Japanese F3000 race 27 years ago this week.)

“So the three of us from probably nine in the morning till six at night for nine days, all we did was double stints each around the circuit.

“First of all, it’s a fantastic car. Second of all, it’s an amazing track. But day after day after day after day going over this bump, and finally, in the morning, on the last day, I did the first stint and three laps before the end of my first stint. I went through the corner and I felt this crack in my ribs and thought ‘Shit! That hurt!” But the trouble is because we’ve been in this together for so long. If you bail now and you put somebody else in the car, that’s pretty rude because you know, they’ve all done the same as you.

“We’re trying to get to the end of this. So I didn’t. I came into the pits. I wasn’t very comfortable. I got my second tank of fuel. I tried to rearrange myself in the seat and I went back out again. And I attempted to do the second stint and I don’t think I got all the way through it, it was just so painful. So I came in and I stopped and we changed drivers.

“The second driver in was Hitoshi Ogawa. He went out, he did one stint. And just towards the end of his stint, he did exactly the same thing and broke exactly the same two ribs that I did.

“So we were then just down to one guy, which was Kenny Acheson and the Japanese guys were like “Ah, car very strong! Car stronger than driver!” They were really happy because it was an amazing car.”

But there were further dramas ahead for Wallace.

“And then so, if you imagine, 20 days from the break point is actually the Sebring 12 hours.

“I was driving there for Dan Gurney in the Eagle Mk III with a massive power four-cylinder turbo engine loads of downforce, ground effects – everything!

“You start testing at Sebring the Monday before, so very, very close to the Australian test. And I knew if I told Dan Gurney he would replace me with somebody else.

“So I didn’t say anything. I thought screw it, I know Sebring is the bumpiest track in the world. But I wanted to win the race and all the rest of it.

“So I just took a whole bunch of painkillers and strapped it up as best I could and, of course, we went out and won the race.

“Going from Sydney back to London on that Monday morning (after the Eastern Creek Test), of course you’ve got a couple of 12-hour flights to get back to London and when you pass somebody in the aisle I was stopping people saying “When you pass me do – not – touch – me!” because it was so bloody painful. You can’t laugh, you can’t sneeze. It’s awful.

“I found actually in the car as long as you were going really fast. I made sure I made a seat that didn’t touch anywhere near my ribs. If you’re going really fast, the ground effects were in the springing and it was alright but whenever you were behind the safety car, it was absolutely horrible, really painful.”

Back to the Toyota TS010 though, and the basis of Andy’s love for the car.

“I was always of the opinion that as technology advances, the cars get better and better and better and better. And they really do and it’s incredible, it’s amazing and it’s wonderful to experience it.

“But the rule set that was in place when we switched to the 3.5 litre 750-kilo ground effect cars. That rule set was amazing.

“And it was amazing for several different reasons.

“When I signed with Toyota, it was 1991 and the car wasn’t ready. So during the year, they said, okay, you’re gonna be developing the car and we’re going to start at the end of 91 and then we’re going to do ’92 and ’93.

“There’s a test track called Yamaha, which is not too far from the team’s base in Gotenba in Japan. So I stayed pretty much the whole year in Japan. And so, we would take the car there to do shakedown and some other stuff.

“Yamaha had got a long, straight and some very, very fast/ medium speed corners.

“We finally got there for the shakedown and I jumped in the car, did a few laps, everything was great. But what I noticed straight away was unbelievable grip in the medium speed corners. Grip like you can’t imagine!

“With downforce, you know you’ve got grip in the high-speed corners and, in the slow ones you expect there to be less grip, because the cars are very stiff, not ideally set up and so on.

“But the medium speed is usually a bit of a compromise. But this thing, every time I got to the medium speed corners I went through and it was so stuck to the road you think “Well that was nowhere near the limit” – Okay, next lap, and then the next lap going quicker, and then you go up a gear and it still isn’t enough!

“In the end, you’re like, “I cannot believe how fast this car is in the medium speed corners.” It just blew me away. I’ve never driven anything like it.

Comparisons With F1 Cars Of The Time

“In 1990 and ’91 I was the test driver for first the March F1 team and then Leyton House and this had more grip because F1 cars, of course, had no ground effect at that point but had a very similar engine.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t have the right top gear for the straight, the car was quicker than we thought I guess. We were using about 12,000 RPM shifting They just said to me “Okay, so you’re going to have the wrong top gear so just carry on and when you get on the straight, when you get to 12,000 just feather the throttle and we’ll just continue like that.

(Video clip below is a TS010 being demonstrated in the spectator area at Fuji supporting the FIA WEC in 2018, the car started every 15 minutes or so for the delight and delectation of the fans)

“So I said – okay no problem. I went out and did some laps, building up speed

“I went down the main straight. Everything was perfect. I feathered the throttle and after about four or five seconds the engine exploded!

“They had never, ever ever had an engine problem with that engine. It was an engine they built themselves and it was fantastic.

“So they changed the engine in double-quick time. I went back out again, did some laps, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, done and…. exactly the same again when I feathered the throttle – Boom!

“Everybody’s scratching your head, the engine guys are looking at it and, of course, what it is, is all of the running on the engine is done with the throttle on against the load. You don’t go on the dyno at 12,000 rpm and the feather the throttle off – ever!

“So of course the conrods are stretching when you took the load off, and then boom, contact with the head and bang bang, valves, the whole lot. So that was what was happening.

“So they figured that out and in the end that wasn’t a problem.

“But still, I came away from that test thinking, this car’s just dynamite.

“Then we were we went to places like Paul Ricard testing, and I’d driven a lot on the very big circuit, but we were sharing with Arrows and Tyrrell a couple of times there. And so we used the F1 track. This was the original F1 track, the shorter version where Gugelmin went flying at the start!

“So you were arriving at Signes corner at something like 330 Km/h, 205 mph and it was absolutely flat in this car at that speed. It was crazy because you arrive and you think it’s impossible to go flat so eventually you do it. Usually, when you’ve done it once, the next lap’s a doddle. But here you do it once and the next time around you lift for no real reason just because!

“So I actually took to putting in my left foot on top of my right to stop it lifting.

“It was incredible. It was close to 5G through there. And you just start imagining stuff like the uprights, the wishbones, everything – how on earth is this thing coping with this!  Signe’s quite a long corner, and halfway through the corner, you just couldn’t hold your head anymore.

“An F1 car in those days was 540 kilos and we were 750. So 210 kilos mores so they were quicker than us at Ricard except when they did a full tank fuel run when they still weren’t as heavy as us, but they were slower than us. Which was very, very impressive.

“Another time I remember we were in Monza and Ayrton Senna was there with the McLaren. He was there two days I think before we got there and his best was a 126.8 at the time doesn’t matter, but it sticks in my mind. And this was when the chicane went left first and then right, not like the current arrangement.

“The Toyota would have been the ultimate car ever, but we still had a manual ‘H’ pattern gearbox. So you’ve got all this downforce, ground effects, sticky tyres, and a very slippery car, you’ve got massive retardation under braking. But you still have to shift the gear yourself on the downshift. The car stops so quickly with only 750 kilos that half the time if you arrived in top gear and you had a second gear corner ahead of you. You couldn’t get down through the gears before you already turned it in the corner and now you’re still in the wrong gear. That’s how quickly it stopped!

“Also the gate on these gears was very close together so it wasn’t impossible to go first, second through a slow corner, accelerate and trying to go into another gear and catching fifth instead of third. And going first, second and going to third but getting first.

“And so you’d have this massive over-rev but the engine never showed any sign of any problem, but would explode about five or six laps later.

“So, if ever you did that in a test, you would always come in straight away and put your team-mate in it! Anyway so because of this being so difficult and you had to shift so quickly and because the revs are coming so quickly the Toyota guys were pretty clever an installed a series of mechanical lockouts. So when you’re in second gear, you cannot get first you can only get third and then on the way down the box you can’t go sixth to second, because sometimes that happened accidentally too, you can only go to fourth.

“So when you came into the pits you were normally in second as you came and you want first and the only way to get first was to go to third and then from third you can get first. That was all brilliant.

“So we’re going round and round and round, and I’ve got this Senna 26.8 in my mind and of course a Group C cars had a lot less drag than and F1 car and ground effects so it’s a little bit unfair, but we would be getting closer and closer and closer we were in the 28s, then the 27s, then low 27s and then we just started to dip into the 26s.

“I was out of the car doing another run and I found myself when we were getting towards the chicane I’ve got one hand on the gear lever, ready. So as soon as I jump on the brakes, I’m going to grab the gear lever and smash it straight into fourth and then straight into second. And then it’s already in the corner and you’ve already stopped.

“So, I remember, as we’re getting really, really close to the McLaren’s fastest lap, I thought, right, this is the lap. So I’m coming down to the chicane. And somehow, I managed to jam it into fourth before I even got to the brake pedal. And that didn’t go well!

“So then it locks up the rear wheels and then the next thing I’m in the gravel trap looking back up the straight!

But that was my memory of the car. Massive downforce, amazing engine, an absolute weapon of a thing.

With the capability of matching a top F1 car, with a top F1 driver, at the time?

“Yeah, and obviously they would have had paddle shifts and stuff like that on the McLaren! With a paddle-shift the Toyota would have been absolutely fantastic!

Fuel Wars!

“Towards the end of the 900-kilo turbo era in Group C we had turbocharged engines, a big boost for qualifying and the power was going up and they were incredible monsters to drive.

“What we had in the naturally aspirated 3.5-litre cars. It started to become a fuel war. In Formula One they were using special fuels and we were starting to use those too.

“Our supplier was ELF who were supplying quite a few of the F1 teams and were really doing an amazing job with the fuels.

“These fuels were numbered, and I think F1 got up to number 30 or 35, or whatever. We were a few months behind those guys, but you dyno test the engine on pump fuel, just to get some kind of idea where you are otherwise because the fuels were changing all the time, you wouldn’t know where you were.

“So the cars would be about 650 horsepower on pump fuel. Then you stick the race fuel in. That race fuel would give you, I believe it was plus 70 hp. A big jump, so you now have 720 horsepower!

“But there was also a qualifying fuel. And the qualifying fuel was another 50hp on top of that – just from fuel!

“We were manually blipping throttle for downshift and stuff. So you had all the pedals setup. When you put the qualifying fuel in, you had to adjust the pedals because one little tiny blip and the thing just revved off the clock. It was unbelievable.

“So you had your sticky one lap qualifying tyres and your qualifying fuel and you went something like six seconds quicker in qualifying. It was unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable.

“But this fuel though was so corrosive that the qualifying fuel itself came in a small drum. You didn’t need much of it. And then you had a hand pump that you pumped it from the drum into the car.

“As soon as you pumped it in, that hand pump is now destroyed, you had to take it apart and change all the rubbers. It’s now in the tank. You do your qualifying run and at the end of the qualifying you’ve got to take the fuel tank out and all the fuel lines and bin the whole lot.

“So that’s what this fuel was like. And man, was it powerful. So now you’re talking about 770 horsepower, (in a 750 kg car) which is pretty impressive. It was amazing.

“I did ask the ELF guy who came with the drums, he never left them out of his sight the whole time. It was still quite secret what was in these things?

“I asked him, what happens if you stick your finger in that stuff, and he said: “You’d be absolutely just fine. It’s just, it’ll just come out with the bone only without any skin on it!”

“The race fuel wasn’t nearly as corrosive, you could do a whole Le Mans on that one, albeit it was a very expensive fuel!”

The racing career of the TS010 would cover just two seasons before the amazing, but unsustainable 3.5-litre ruleset imploded, there were three wins, the Monza victory mentioned above and a pair right at the end, in Japanese competition.

Hitoshi Ogawa image courtesy Super GT World