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At the time of its hey-day, in the mid-1990s, the SW20-chassis Toyota MR2 Turbo was quite the little rocket. It was fun to drive, made good power, and was rear-wheel drive and factory turbocharged.
Back then, there weren’t too many cars in its price range that could make that claim. Even today, we’ve seen some modified MR2 Turbos that can run with Corvettes and Porsches at the track. The basic platform has always been there.
But, while the MR2 never really took off with a serious road racing following here in the US, the car did see some action in Japan. Chalk that up to the simple fact that they made it and it’s much cheaper for them to run MR2s than imported supercharged Mustang 5.0s. Raced in the All-Japan Grand Touring Car Championship (JGTC), now called Super GT, this Toyota MR2 was the GT300 class drivers’ and teams’ champion in 1999.
Campaigned by Momocorse Racing with Tsuchiya (no, really, that’s the name – Ed.), this MR2 was one of only two MR2s to have ever taken the series crown. We ran into this Toyota as it sat on display in Tokyo, inside Toyota’s History Garage museum. It’s well kept and fully restored, barely noticeable as a car that was heavily raced a full decade ago.
Compared to the Super GT machines of today, this MR2 looks almost factory. The OEM bodylines are still recognizable and there aren’t nearly as many aerodynamic winglets or sculpting as there is today. Capped at 300bhp for the GT300 class (GT500 class machines are capped at 500hp) this Toyota’s stock 3S-GTE engine had little problem producing the required power.
The 3S-GTE turbocharged engine also saw duty in the JGTC Supras and Celicas. As with all JGTC machines, the MOMO MR2 chassis was owned and maintained by the MOMO team, with racing engines on lease from Toyota Racing Development (TRD). JGTC/Super GT rules stipulate that teams must return the engine to the manufacturer after racing has ceased.
Cutting edge almost a decade ago, the aerodynamics are sculpted to provide downforce with minimal drag and to help channel and evacuate hot air. The different sculpts and ducts that feed the mid-mounted engine are readily apparent, as are the widened front fenders. We couldn’t catch a glimpse of the flat underbody but the car’s distinctive front fueling dry breaks are visible.
Although not one of the most famous racing machines in the world, the JGTC MOMO Toyota MR2 Turbo is sure to thrill the racing and MR2 enthusiast. With its Enkei wheels, Yokohama racing slicks and big brakes, the car went race after race. And, regardless of brand, who doesn’t like a season champion?
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