Toyota Sienna R-Tuned minivan during the 2016 One Lap America Serie

Racing the Mortal Minivan. Toyota’s Sienna on the One Lap America Circuit

 

Toyota Sienna at One Lap America 2016 Summit Point Raceway. Front Sienna SE+, Rear Sienna R-Tuned.
Toyota Sienna at One Lap America 2016 Summit Point Raceway. Front Sienna SE+, Rear Sienna R-Tuned.

This past April, Toyota invited a handful of Washington DC area automotive journalists to join them at Summit Point Raceway to see two original manufacturer built minivans, not customized racecars, compete in the One Lap America race series. Toyota USA’s Engineering and Marketing departments were campaigning a Sienna R-Tuned Concept and a Sienna SE+ during the week-long – multi-state racing event, that is One Lap America. Where they were raced all day, then driven hundreds of miles to the next track at night to get back on the track and race again the next day.

 

Reality TV Star Rutledge Wood and Champion racer Craig Stanton, sign autographs at the 2016 One Lap America stop at Summit Point Raceway
Reality TV Star Rutledge Wood and Champion racer Craig Stanton, sign autographs at the 2016 One Lap America stop at Summit Point Raceway.

 

Toyota brought on Top Gear America’s, Rutledge Wood, a bearded hipster TV reality show host, as well as Grand-Am Rolex GT Champion race driver Craig Stanton, to pilot these vans, and a crew to support them as they raced the week away, with everyone working together like a seasoned race team.

 

One Lap America 2016 Toyota Sienna SE+ at Summit Point Raceway
One Lap America 2016 Toyota Sienna SE+ at Summit Point Raceway,

 

 

 

 

 

Toyota’s purpose was both promotional, and an engineering one. Showing off that Toyota’s best-selling Sienna minivan could compete heartily with serious racecars, but also as an opportunity for the engineering team to tweak the van for better overall drivability in everyday situations and longevity.

Toyota Sienna R-Tuned, stripped and caged for racing the One Lap America 2016 series
Toyota Sienna R-Tuned, stripped and caged for racing the One Lap America 2016 series.

 

A Toyota Sienna R-Tuned Concept vehicle, interior stripped out, caged with a custom suspension, and many modifications the Sienna SE+, tricked out with TRD Badging, on the shifter and oil cap, dark tinted lights and Pirelli P Zero tires, and the fluids replaced to better perform under racing conditions. Inside the SE+, sans roll cage, the seats were slipped in for passengers, or removed when out on the racetrack in competition. While both vans were labeled “Concept”, each appeared to be using off the shelf parts and products that any amateur racer could get.

 

Riding inside the Toyota Sienna SE+ on the 2016 One Lap America parade lap at Summit Point Raceway
Riding inside the Toyota Sienna SE+ on the 2016 One Lap America parade lap at Summit Point Raceway.

 

During a break in the racing, a van load of the DMV Scribes drove the Sienna SE+ on Summit’s Main course. While none of us were as track savvy as the competitive team from Toyota, it was fun to get a minivan loaded with adults and seats on a race track, then see it stripped and back out racing minutes later in Wood’s capable hands.

 

Toyota and Racing: Toyota vehicles racing is nothing new, from enthusiast’s auto crossing Scion’s to Camry’s chasing round the NASCAR oval; Toyota Trucks going at it in the dessert in an off-road rally; Lexus IS F-Sport in a street race. Toyota has a racing brand, TRD, that you see proudly on street vehicles, pretty much everywhere you go. But the common family hauler, the Sienna minivan, that is not what is thought of when the topic of competitive racing is discussed.

Toyota Sienna SE+ Sporting the TRD and all the One Lap America promotional stickers for 2016
Toyota Sienna SE+ Sporting the TRD and all the One Lap America promotional stickers for 2016.

This was one of those times where automakers wanting to appeal to that “younger Dad”, And make him think of motorsports and minivan in the same sentence. Instead of wrestling with the admission one has achieved stable adulthood and needs to transport their kids, friends of the kids, the dog, and a variety of belongings, around suburbia.

Toyota Sienna R-Tuned engine bay featuring the TRD logo on the oil cap
Toyota Sienna R-Tuned engine bay featuring the TRD logo on the oil cap.

 

With this One Lap America experience, Toyota is not only showing that the family haulers can be the equivalent to racecars, as these two Sienna minivans indeed hauled it down the racetrack with the best of them, often competing with high-power performance monsters. In the end the team completed the week-long event in first place with 160 points, 65 more than its Acura MDX competitor, the other entrant in the Truck/SUV class.

 

One Lap America is the ultimate road trip, stopping at 12 different tracks over 8 days, in 7 different states. One Lap America is a race series for the enthusiasts sponsored by Grassroots Motorsports Magazine and Tire Rack. Starting in 1984 this is the 32nd year running. A legendary race, made even more so by the movie Cannonball Run.

 

The Toyota Sienna 2016 One Lap America Team, showing off their badges, showing they have donated to the charity.
The Toyota Sienna 2016 One Lap America Team, showing off their badges, showing they have donated to the charity.

 

More information on the Sienna One Lap program and the Toyota Engineering Motorsports team can be found at SiennaOneLapofAmerica.com as well as on  toyotaengineeringmotorsports.com. In addition, fans can follow along via Toyota’s FacebookTwitter, and Instagram channels.

 
Information on the One Lap of America event can be found at OneLapofAmerica.com.

The Toyota Sienna competitively racing against serious race cars in the 2016 One Lap America Series at Summit Point Raceway
The Toyota Sienna competitively racing against serious race cars in the 2016 One Lap America Series at Summit Point Raceway.

As they say while out racing, “Keep the Shinny Side UP!”

 

Words and Photos by William West Hopper

 

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