Last month it was announced the Toyota Supra would join the NASCAR Xfinity series for the 2019 season.
The radical-looking Supra NASCAR body looks very different from the Camaro and Mustang XFinity Series bodies. You can thank the California-based team at Toyota’s Calty Design Research studio for that, which wanted the composite body to look as close to the production A90 Supra as possible. To do this, they incorporated the new Supra’s rather pronounced nose, but it wasn’t as easy as just submitting the design to NASCAR, group vice president and technical director for Toyota Racing Development, Andy Graves told us in an interview.
“Right at the start Calty did that design (with the nose),” Graves said. “Actually, the very first version with that center ‘snorkel’ on the hood, it actually stuck out from the front bumper like 2 and a half inches. Very, very pronounced. It actually looked much cooler than even what we have right now.”
But the original design protruded a bit too much, so the team went back to the drawing board and came up with a less exaggerated version. Toyota then ran the design past NASCAR to ensure they hadn’t broken any rules. After all, no one had tried to implement such a design on a NASCAR body before.
“First we had to go to NASCAR because the lower half of the nose is a common piece amongst all three manufacturers, so from the split line, the lower half, that’s a mandatory part,” Graves explained. “No one has ever produced anything for the top surface of the nose that stuck out past the bottom half. So we had to make sure, even though it wasn’t in the rule book, that NASCAR wasn’t going to come back when we tried to get it submitted and rule that out, but they were fine.”
Then Graves and his team turned their attention toward the aerodynamic advantage, or disadvantage, the nose provided. It turned out the ‘snorkel’, as Toyota refers to it, actually improved airflow at the front of the vehicle in some way – although Graves didn’t elaborate on exactly how this works.
“It’s definitely helped us on the aero side, it ended up being a great design feature that we worked out,” Graves said. “We were very fortunate that ended up being a (positive) styling effect, on the Supra. When we first looked at it (the Supra’s nose) we said ‘we’re not sure that’s going to work’ but it ended up being a positive for us.”
You’re probably wondering the same we did when we looked at the NASCAR Supra’s protruding nose: “how’s that going to work in the bump draft, though?” The smart minds at TRD thought of this (of course) and ran the design past their star drivers to ensure this wouldn’t be a problem.
“We talked to Kyle (Busch), talked to Erik Jones and talked to Christopher Bell to make sure that the nose protruding like that was not going to mess them up in any way as far as bump drafting goes,” Graves said. “They were all perfectly fine, they said as long as you make it strong enough that we don’t smash in that piece then we’ll be more than happy with it. We’ve run some simulations, and actually, if you get far enough over to the side, by the time you get out that far, you’re not going to hook him or anything. So that’s not an issue.”
The Toyota Supra’s appearance in NASCAR’s second tier Xfinity Series will happen around the same time the road car debuts in early 2019. The Supra is a bit of an odd choice for NASCAR, if you ask us, but the automaker is insistent on taking the sports car racing everywhere – ovals included. You can thank chief engineer Tetsuya Tada for helping to employ that mindset. Tada would also like to see the car race at Le Mans one day, but the automaker hasn’t committed to anything official yet with the FIA.
We’re excited for the road-going Supra to debut and all, but we’re really excited to watch NASCAR’s XFinity Series drivers bop each other in the rear with the Supra’s big nose (or snorkel, whichever you prefer) at superspeedways like Talladega and Daytona.
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