Last week’s Toyota TS040 Hybrid launch prompted me to post the above picture of their TS030 2013 LMP1 car, which I took at Tokyo Mega Web last time I was in Japan. Tokyo Mega Web is Toyota’s brand showcase/museum building, located on Odaiba, across the Rainbow Bridge from the main areas of Tokyo, I had a few hours spare, so went to check it out.
The first thing I saw when I walked through the door was the TS030 World Endurance Championship LMP1 car, I instantly knew I’d like this place! I had previously seen the car at Tokyo Motorshow – that’s another blog post on the list, but it was a great opportunity to get up close to one of the top endurance racing cars of last year without the crowds. I spent a while looking all around the car and getting excited for Le Mans this year, where the new TS040 will be taking on Audi and Porsche.
The top floor of Tokyo Mega Web is split into two sections, motorsport and technology, I checked out the technology section first, starting with the Star Safety System (traction control, ABS, stability control etc) simulator. The simulator set up was good, with hydraulic rams for pitch, roll and bumps, but the message was lost on me, as they had made the vehicle impossible to drive with the systems turned off – I have driven plenty of cars without stability control etc and don’t crash each time I try to turn a corner.
Next was a gesture based system, used to explain new driver assist systems Toyota are introducing to their cars, such as car to car communications, despite working in the car technology industry I think a lot of it is trying to solve problems that don’t exist, along with making drivers complacent and lazier – you don’t need a radar to tell you a kid is running out in front of you – that’s what your eyes are for!
Rather than continuing to get wound up by pointless technology I went to look at the motorsport section, which alongside the LMP1 car had some TRD tuned cars – IQs (almost as pointless as Aston Martin Cygnets?) and GT86s, which looked good and were available for virtual test drives around Suzuka on their Gran Turismo 6 set up. Next to the TRD area was a section dedicated to Gazoo Racing and their success in the Nurburgbring 24 hour races, with Toyota and Lexus.
Downstairs from the technology and motorsport section was more like a large Toyota showroom, showcasing their current Japanese range, I had heard that test drives were available on their track, but apparently my UK driving license doesn’t qualify me to drive their cars. So, I decided to go to their “History garage”, which is located about 5 minutes away, the other side of a shopping mall.
The downstairs section of the history garage housed a model shop – where you could buy a model of seemingly every car, except an MR2, an ex-Allan McNish Toyota F1 car and their workshop; where they were restoring a Cadillac and a Delorean. The restoration work looked very thorough and the restored Jaguar E-type looked stunning. I was most impressed by the 1983 Toyota Levin, better known by its chassis code AE86 – a lightweight RWD hatchback, made iconic in the Initial D drifting cartoon. Most of the cars were to be found upstairs. Despite being a Toyota museum, the first car I saw was a FIAT 500, as they had a European car section decked out like a market place, with Italian, French, German and British cars, including a very nice Lotus Elan. Next up was a selection of American cars, before the Japanese cars, including the Sports 800 – an ancestor of my MR2 along with original Supras, Skyline GTRs and a lovely Mazda Cosmo – Mazda’s first rotary engined sports car.