Toyota has found racing success all over the world, including a recent victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and a dominating run in the World Rally Championship in the 1990s. From these pinnacle levels of motorsport, a group of the company's engineers has now taken a step into a far lower rung of auto racing – the 24 Hours of Lemons.
Rather than hosting professional drivers and cutting-edge race cars, Lemons competition focuses more on fun and creativity. Teams have just $500 to build their machines, and the result is a hodgepodge of models lapping a circuit together. The cheap vehicles also force the crews to be creative mechanically because these race cars aren't in tip-top condition.
The Toyota team picked a Corolla FX16 as its race car. These three-door hot hatches have been largely forgotten today, but they were the Japanese brand's answer to Volkswagen GTI and Honda Civic Si at the time. The model packed Toyota's famous 4A-GE 1.6-liter four-cylinder with a 7,500-rpm redline and 108 horsepower in this application. However, the Toyota team's Lemons car has had an engine swap.
Where many teams use Lemons as an opportunity to have fun, Toyota takes the racing very seriously. They are there to win. The crew also uses this competition as a way to become better engineers, and it's easy to see how dealing with a cheap, failure-prone race car forces them to get creative. For example, when the Corolla has a fuel system problem that leads to lots of smoke and some brief flames, the team jumps into action to diagnose the problem and come up with a solution.
The fuel system issue appears to prevent the Toyota squad from winning this race, but the crew can at least celebrate winning one of Lemons' awards after the event.
Source: Toyota USA via YouTube