For cars that are immensely fun to flog in the twisties, there are few better than the Toyota AE86. Less discussed, however, is its racing provenance. We’re not talking about its touge battles on Mt Akina, here. Or even talking about Japan. We’re taking about the UK, where during the car’s heyday in 1986-87 it twice won the British Touring Car Championships.
What is most amazing about this AE86, called the Toyota Corolla GT in the UK, is that in 1986 with driver Chris Hodgetts behind the wheel, it captured the overall driver’s championship. Technically, it was classified as a Class C car, which had a displacement cap of 1.6 liters. That means it bested far more powerful machines, like the BMW 635CSi, Alfa Romeo 75 V6, Renault 5 Turbo, Ford Capri III 3.0S, Ford Escort RS Turbo, Mitsubishi Starion, and even brethren like the Celica Supra.
In 1987, the series was changed from the British Saloon Car Championships to the BTCC we know today. Rules were shuffled, and the AE86 ended up in Class D. Still, Hodgetts took home the driver’s title in that class.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of this achievement, Toyota UK recently put the current driver of their BTCC Toyota Avensis Tom Ingram behind the wheel of the AE86. Sadly, the actual winning car was sold off in the year subsequent to the championship and its current whereabouts are unknown. The car used in these videos is a replica, but tackling the circuit with it still manages to wow the young Ingram, who at age 23, wasn’t even born yet when the AE86 ruled the track.