The GR Racing Concept revealed at this month’s Geneva Auto Show gave us a hint of what the new Toyota Supra will look like, and finally confirmed the return of the legendary nameplate. But it also represents the latest phase in the development of a car like no Toyota before it.
Three years before the red FT-1 concept’s Detroit 2014 unveiling gave us our first tangible indication that a fifth-generation Supra might be in the works, Toyota and BMW jointly announced plans in December 2011 to identify and discuss potential collaborative projects.
Speaking with Autotrader at the Geneva Auto Show, Supra chief engineer Tetsuya Tada told the story of where his involvement kicked off.
In February 2012, Tada-san (then Toyota 86 chief engineer) attended the 86’s first European media drive event in Spain.
But halfway through the event, he received a phone call from Toyota headquarters, and was told to immediately leave for Munich to visit BMW headquarters — without giving away his destination. He discovered their discussion would delve into the potential of joint development projects between the Toyota and BMW.
He reported back to his superiors, explaining that a joint development project could be possible — just two months after the announcement of Toyota and BMW’s potential collaboration.
Five months later, in late June 2012, Toyota and BMW publicly announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two, "aimed at long-term strategic collaboration in four fields: Joint development of a fuel cell system, joint development of architecture and components for a future sports vehicle, collaboration on powertrain electrification and joint research and development on lightweight technologies."
The keywords here are clearly ‘sports’ and ‘vehicle,’ but Tada San explained the decision to make it a Supra took two more years.
"In the beginning, we had many other possibilities that we discussed; mid-ship sports car could be a possibility, or a high deck car could be another possibility," Tada said. This had two potential results: A new MR2, or a new SUV. The MR2 had been absent from Toyota’s global line-up since 2007.
The two years spent deciding on Supra coincides with the unveiling of the red FT-1 concept at the 2014 Detroit Motor Show. While FT-1 actually stands for Future Toyota 1, it seemed to be code for Supra.
Fast forward to the Geneva show early this month, and the Supra GR Racing Concept is effectively the new A90 generation hiding behind a bunch of tasty GT3-like racing mods. We know the production version will share its underpinnings with the next Z4, and house a turbocharged BMW straight-six under its hood. Here’s hoping we get the 86 big brother with a heart of M240i we all want it to be.