The Toyota 85C was built for flying down the Mulsanne straight at 180 mph, not for slinging around winding roads in the Japanese mountains. The wild, 500-horsepower prototype is a rolling aero wedge. But there’s something exhilarating in watching a professional drifter pilot Toyota’s first Le Mans finisher up a tree-lined touge in Japan.
The 85C is now privately owned, but Nob Taniguchi was thrown its keys at the Maniwa Speed Festival. He was competing in the event’s hillclimb, in which a variety of race cars compete, from a time attack Honda S2000 to a SuperGT GR Supra. But the juxtaposition of a Group C endurance racer on public roads that are more accustomed to seeing an AE86 provides a flood of sensory overload.
The aluminum-bodied Toyota 85C was historically important for being Toyota’s first stab at Le Mans. Powered by Toyota’s 4T-GT engine, a 2.1-liter turbo four cranked up to an estimated 500 horsepower, the car was a joint effort between TRD, Dome, and TOM’s. Driven by Satoru Nakajhima, Masanori Sekiya, and Kaoru Hoshino, it finished 12th at Toyota’s debut Le Mans outing in 1985. In 2022 Nakajima’s son Kazuki, who won Le Mans for Toyota in 2018, 2019, and 2020, drove the 85C for a trophy ceremony at Circuit de la Sarthe.
Taniguchi also got a turn behind the wheel of the Advan Porsche 962C, which Kunimitsu Takahashi won the 1989 All-Japan Sports Prototype Car Endurance Championship with, as well as the controversial Liberty Walk Ferrari F40.