June 18, 2024
Toby Thyer Photographer 410

It is a bittersweet tale of a bit vehicle that went up in opposition to giants and misplaced, however got here away a hero.

I exploit the phrase ‘hero’ in additional of a philosophical sense, as a result of even if the SARD-engineered MC8-R race vehicle by no means got here just about a podium, it stands as a champion to many, for causes I will be able to endeavour to give an explanation for.

The auto I’m about to turn you lately is the one-of-one MC8, a vehicle constructed to homologate the Toyota Group SARD MC8-R for Le Mans in 1995.


Within the early ’90s, with the loss of life of Crew C, Toyota determined to make a transition from purpose-built race vehicles just like the TS010 to production-car-based GT machines for Le Mans.

Toyota selected the JZA80 Supra and SW20 MR2 fashions to headline this new route. The previous, similar to its rival, the Nissan Skyline GT-R LM, looked like an obtrusive selection, however to meet the Le Mans rulebook, the GT-spec Supra was once powered through a 2.1L turbo 3S-GTE engine.


The second one access from Toyota was once a bit extra not likely. They selected a SARD-developed MR2 to move head-to-head with the likes of the McLaren F1, Kremer K8 Spyder and Ferrari F40 LM. With the intention to stand an opportunity, Toyota and SARD would wish to fortify the little mid-engine MR2 significantly. However wouldn’t it be sufficient?


Toyota Group SARD constructed a couple of vehicles for festival use, however they just had to construct one road-going model to fulfill the homologation necessities. That makes this vehicle the one road-legal, stretched, V8-powered MR2 on this planet. It disappeared in a while after Toyota and SARD completed racing in 1997, however resurfaced 15 years later.

The MC8’s present proprietor, Mr. Y, purchased it a couple of years in the past, and after an extended procedure bringing it as much as present street and protection requirements, put the original vehicle again at the side road.


As for the unique vehicles that competed at Le Mans, the primary ’95 vehicle was once scrapped, and the ’96 vehicle was once up to date for the 1997 season and joined through any other new MC8-R. A type of ’97 season race vehicles stuck fireplace, and hearsay has it that the fire-damaged device was once salvaged and changed into a street vehicle, however that hasn’t been showed.

The only real-surviving ’97 Toyota Group SARD MC8-R works vehicle is owned through a non-public collector in Aichi Prefecture, or possibly Gifu. On the time of writing, additional investigation is wanted, however it’s a vehicle that I for one would love to peer.


To ensure that the MC8-R can be solid on the consistent top speeds that Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans calls for, SARD reinterpreted the rulebook and lengthened the MR2 round 400mm from the rear wheel arches. Necessarily, SARD constructed a tube body to reinforce the rear of the auto, however saved nearly all of the entrance part of the chassis untouched.

This was once the primary GT device to be changed from a street vehicle through having its whole rear phase changed with a tube body. It’s a method Porsche borrowed for its vastly a hit 911 GT1.


One more reason for stretching the MR2 was once to suit a 4.0L 1UZ-FE V8, which at the time was once discovered within the Lexus LS 400 and Toyota Aristo. It was once a courageous transfer from SARD, however a call sponsored up through the reliability of the venerable quad-cam 32-valve V8. The engine was once advanced with GT500 programs in thoughts, even if it by no means made an look in that collection.

The MC8-R race vehicles had been fitted with a twin-turbo machine from SARD’s catalogue, however the road-going MC8 model wasn’t handled to any pressured induction.


In race trim, the MC8-R was once a correct power-to-weight champion. In 1995, it weighed 1,273kg (2,806lb) and made 580PS. Within the following years, weight was once trimmed down to at least one,061kg (2,339lb) after which down to at least one,000kg (2,204lb) in 1997, whilst continual went from 580PS to 664PS respectively.

Unfortunately, regardless of how cool the auto regarded, or how ridiculous the power-to-weight ratio was once, the MC8-R had worse success than a black cat strolling underneath a ladder on Friday the thirteenth.


On its first look at Le Mans in 1995  it didn’t organize to complete the race because of snatch failure. In 1996, SARD switched from a 6-speed Hewland transmission to a 5-speed March Engineering unit, however the more potent gearbox was once the least in their issues. Even after losing round 200kg, the auto certified in mainly the similar position as the former 12 months, then got here 2nd to final on race day.


Making an allowance for the contest, it’s now not unexpected; even the mighty GT-R and NSX best got here fifteenth and sixteenth respectively out of 25 finishers. The little MC8-R was once up in opposition to vehicles just like the McLaren F1 and the Porsche GT1

Coincidently, take note I mentioned that Porsche borrowed SARD’s concept to make a rear tube body for his or her 911 GT1? Neatly, bet which Porsche completely wiped the ground that 12 months… If Albert Einstein copied your homework, I believe you’ll chalk that up as a reasonably large win.


In ’97, after dropping much more weight and pumping up the flexibility, issues nonetheless didn’t cross smartly for the MC8-R at Le Mans. In spite of the group’s highest efforts, they didn’t qualify and in the end gave up attempting.

The vehicles went directly to race in a couple of Japan championships, however with none actual good fortune there both. It’s a disgrace, as a result of the MC8-R was once a good recipe for an excessively cool race vehicle; in all probability Toyota Group SARD simply had their attractions set too top…


As a street vehicle, the MC8 is an absolute pleasure, so in all probability that is the place it will have to had been advanced extra. Perhaps, like such a lot of marques, the homologation specials are in truth higher than the race vehicles they’re modelled on.

I’m positive if the SARD MC8 was once constructed as a limited-run manufacturing vehicle, it could have bought like sizzling truffles. No less than there’s this one even though, and fortunately Mr. Y is using it at the streets of Japan as a reminder that dreaming giant is occasionally extra essential than profitable.

Toby Thyer
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