Chief Engineer for Lexus IS200 Drives BTCC Race Car
Proof that an individual’s character is evident in their work can be found in the Lexus IS200. A sporty, rear wheel-drive saloon, it is no surprise to learn that the “father” of it, Chief Engineer Nobuaki Katayama, enjoys a bit of oversteer, but even he had never driven an IS200 like the one raced in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC).
Katayama, who has previously competed as an amateur rally driver and still enjoys karting with his son, was in Europe to attend the press launch of the new IS300. Knowing of his interest in motor sport, Lexus GB invited him to drive the IS200 being raced in the BTCC by TotalMotorSport Racing (TMS R). Keen to try this unusual version of his car, Katayama delayed his return to Japan by a couple of days and found himself at a sunny Pembrey circuit in South Wales kitted up in unique Lexus racing overalls.
After a briefing from regular driver, Brazilian Thomas Erdos – who is the same height and build – Katayama was soon out sliding the car around on the damp track, then having more fun on racing slicks as the track dried. With 270bhp and absolutely none of the creature comforts that Lexus are usually famous for, it was an unusual experience for the enthusiastic engineer who is also a highly capable driver.
“It is certainly a very different car to the one I know,” commented Katayama after his first run. “Racing was never part of the plan when I was developing this car, but being a racing enthusiast I was very happy to learn that TMS R were racing it in the BTCC.”
TMS R chose to race the IS200, even without official support from Lexus, because they felt it was the right car for the job. After some early teething troubles, their confidence has proved correct. The IS200 has been the best non-works car in the championship, frequently faster than some of the big budget car/driver combinations.
Katayama spent some time with the race engineers, discussing exactly what modifications had been made to the car and even suggesting some improvements. “They are a young, private team and they have done all the racing development themselves making their achievements all the more remarkable. I am very grateful for the chance to drive the car and will be keeping a close watch on how it gets on from now on.”
Notes to Editors: TotalMotorSport Racing is based in Cheshire and 2001 was its first year competing in the BTCC. Totally independent, the team made the IS200 the most successful non-works car over the season. They plan to run an expanded, two-car team next year.
The IS200 race car is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, 16-valve engine. For racing purposes it is stripped of the VVT-i variable valve timing features on the road car. The engine revs to 8,500rpm and comfortably attains the 270bhp output target.
In a drive to keep competition costs down, the new touring car regulations specify certain components must be common to all competitors. These include the Xtrac six-speed sequential gearbox, AP disc brakes, BF Goodrich tyres and 17-inch OZ racing wheels. The fuel system, clutch, ECU and data logging system are also common to all competitors.
For further information contact one of the following:
At TMS R: Stephen Harris on 01244 383633 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org