Rumoured to be the most successful Toyota Festival yet, the three day event held in the picturesque Central Otago drew a generous crowd with plenty of thrill-based activities in March.
More than 400 Toyota enthusiasts and families alike arrived at the Highland’s Motorsport Park in Central Otago to leave their mark on the 4.1km full GT circuit, turn heads in the Show and Shine competition and turn up the terrain on Sunday’s 4x4 Adventure.
Held in the South Island for the first time, this year’s event offered a unique dynamic to the festival which in the previous year coincided with the final round of the Toyota Finance 86 Championship at Hampton Downs across two days.
However, with six activities to choose from, this year’s event resulted in more involvement and quality track time for festival goers, including a unique Toyota presentation in the Hilux Cave in Highland’s National Motorsport Museum, track sessions, off-road skills courses, classroom sessions with experienced circuit drivers, Show and Shine competitions, a 4x4 adventure and competitions for simply bringing along their own Toyota on the day.
Toyota New Zealand’s Fleet Technician and Show and Shine head judge Brent Sellens says that this year’s festival had a prevalent theme of the Toyota faith in reliability with most of the fun for many being the incredible lengths undergone by the older models to attend the festival.
“One particular owner drove their 1000cc 4-speed Toyota Starlet for more than four hours to the event knowing that the journey was half the glory, not the performance aspect of being used on the circuit. While others ventured out in their late 1970s – early 1980s pride and joy’s across the South Island to be admired,” said Sellens.
“You can’t judge a Toyota driver by their appearance. There was such a variety of people with individual tastes of what they love about Toyota’s.”
“There were some great examples of Toyota production vehicles that are becoming very rare originals as people start to realise the value created in an un-modified vehicle. We gaze at these vehicles in amazement and can only imagine what they’ve been through until now.”
A stand out in Saturday’s Show and Shine competition was the winner of the pre-1990 category, an original AE86 which was presented in pristine showroom condition. The AE86 has a well-known history for being an ideal platform for some of the finest rally vehicles in their time which still deliver results today.
“Too see an original, un-modified AE86 in the flesh and driven on the road was outstanding. This car should be in a museum,” said Sellens.
The AE86 was presented alongside the iconic Corolla, Levin and Corona models including the very first Toyota assembled in New Zealand, a 1966 Corona, which like Toyota New Zealand, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Time-honoured FJ Cruiser displays were popular crowd-pleasers as was the Kiwi musical icon, Dave Dobbyn, who chatted to other like-minded Toyota 86 owners after some quick laps in an 86 during Saturday’s track sessions and having a crack at the 4x4 adventure at the historic Bendigo Station.
Born in 2013, the festival provides the forum for drivers and enthusiasts to get their annual Toyota fix over the course of one weekend, and will likely alternate between the North and South Islands, promising to continue to offer more exciting activities in years to come.