Envision a Sienna and, odds are, the words “performance vehicle” don’t immediately spring to mind. But after an R-tuned Sienna concept claimed the Truck/SUV class crown in the running of the Tire Rack One Lap of America competition, perhaps they should.
Toyota Motor Sales entered the souped-up Sienna, in the 34th running of the eight-day race that took place over nearly 3,000 miles in May. Along the way, the team went head-to-head against other stock entries in time trials at seven race tracks from Wisconsin to Massachusetts and several states in between. One Lap of America is an iconic competition that, in its original form, was the inspiration for the movie “The Cannonball Run.”
“Our goal coming into this event was to try to break some of the preconceived notions people have about minivans,” said TEMA Sienna Chief Engineer Andy Lund who co-piloted the minivan. “We built the R-tuned Sienna as a way of shattering some of those stereotypes. This competition was a natural outgrowth of that effort. The skillful driving of world-class driver Craig Stanton didn’t hurt either.”
TMS also entered a Sienna SE+ concept driven by Top Gear America host Rutledge Wood.
In addition, Toyota Engineering Motorsports—a group of TEMA engineers that participates in racing series to improve problem solving, team work and ultimately improve future products—fielded a TRD Scion FR-S and a modified 2013 Avalon.
“Just finishing this grueling event is an accomplishment, said Justin LaChausse, production engineer and co-driver of the FR-S. Our team has competed in other race series since 2008 and this is our second time running in One Lap of America. Racing improves our team dynamics while teaching lessons in vehicle safety and performance that can only be learned on the track.”
LaChausse and the FR-S finished second in the SSGT2 Small Bore class.
TEMA’s Avalon was modified with TRD lowering springs, StopTech Big Brake kit, stainless steel dual exhaust, TRD sway bars, custom 1-Off TRD 19" wheels, TTC Design tail lamps and custom painted trim. It finished fourth in the mid-priced sedan class.
So whether the goal was to shatter stereotypes or improve future products, both teams found plenty of collaboration amidst the competition. Team members shared information and helped each other out.
“Even though each of the Toyota teams had its own goals for racing, we were all part of the One Toyota family, said Marc Shioya, TMS marketing and communications planner for Sienna. “At every stop, it was fun to work together. It was especially fun to watch people laugh and smile at our Siennas because they didn’t fit the typical minivan image.”
By Mike Triebsch
Team TEMA -- This was the second year for the Toyota Engineering Motorsports team to compete in the race. They modified both cars for the race in their own shop, and driving was shared between six engineers during the eight-day event.
Click here to watch a video of team members at the One Lap of America race.
Super Skiddish – TEMA’s engineering team’s Scion FR-S takes to the wet skid pad at Tire Rack headquarters in South Bend, Ind.
Top Gear Talk -- Rutledge Wood, host of Top Gear America, talks to the production engineering team at the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Ky.