Toyota's new TGR Driving Academy aims to benefit SA buyers with an extended program

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• Toyota SA introduced media to its extended Toyota Gazoo Racing program.

• The event included driving experiences with Mandla Mdakane and Giniel de Villiers.

• The newly established TGR Driving Academy was also introduced.

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Toyota South Africa is upping the ante with how it approaches local driver training. Headed by managing director Paul de Vos, the Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGR) Driving Academy looks to train drivers in a series of events that should make them better road users and more alert and safer when out on the road.

The training programs cover various challenges drivers might face on South African roads, and the Academy offers eight courses that prospective clients can choose from. These include Advanced Defensive Driving, Collision Avoidance, Gravel/Dirt Road Training, Defensive Driving and Traffic Psychology, Advanced 4X4 & Recovery, On-road/Off-road Driving (4x2/4x4), Dynamic Handling, and Hijack Prevention.

Earlier in May 2021, we joined the TGR Driving Academy team at the Gerotek Test Facilities in Pretoria to get a first-hand experience of what clients to the programs can expect.

toyota,toyota gazoo racing
The Toyota Gazoo Racing Driving Academy team

Drifting in a front-wheel drive Corolla

The TGR Driving Academy's purpose is to prepare everyday drivers for real-life situations. To highlight one of the Academy's training programs, we were tasked with drifting a front-wheel drive Toyota Corolla. It sounded far stranger than it is, but the team came well prepared for the real-world simulation.

With a PVC-type rear tyre fitted, the car turns into a rear-wheel drive-like car when one flicks the steering wheel. The purpose of the exercise is to prepare drivers for wet roads when the rear steps out. It's a different experience controlling a FWD car and not expecting it to behave like a RWD vehicle. Yet, these are the very aspects the TGR Driving Academy wants to address.

The experience may take some getting used to, but participants will soon get it under the knee after several practice laps.

toyota corolla
The Toyota Gazoo Racing Driving Academy's Corolla 'drift car'

Dynamic driving with Mandla Mdakane

Part of Toyota South Africa's greater TGR program includes a team that competes in the GTC (Global Touring Cars). At said event, Toyota had two of its GTC cars at Gerotek's dynamic track, with Mandla Mdakane, one of the team's drivers, piloting one of the cars.

Toyota competes in the GTC with a racing version of its Corolla sedan. Media representatives got to experience this very car as Mdakane gave it full beans around the track.

Strapped into the racing seat, the GTC driver launched the sports car off the line and darted towards the first corner. The brakes on the car are far sharper and more potent than those on an ordinary Corolla, which reiterates that the only resemblance the car has with its production sibling is the bodywork. Driving around the track, the team said that Mdakane would reach around 170km/h down the back straight. And with little to no body roll, the car performed like a train on rails.

Shotgun with Giniel de Villiers

Another one of TGR's programs is its participation in the Dakar rally, and one of the team's drivers is local hero Giniel de Villiers. The man from Stellenbosch and his Dakar-built Toyota Hilux drove media representatives around one of Gerotek's gravel tracks, but showed no signs of fear as he steered the V8 Hilux through the narrow, donga-ridden track.

De Villiers' Hilux also has little in common with its production sibling - bar the look-alike design - but it's been turned into a go-anywhere machine that can conquer any terrain. The bakkie's suspension, tyres, and chassis have all been designed with the intent to dominate the Dakar's gruelling nature, which was made evident as the rally driver reached speeds close to 150km/h in parts where any normal person would have called quits.

In all, the event highlighted Toyota SA and TGR's commitment to the local market - be it motorsport, its products, or driver training - and should it build on the already proven trust consumers have with the brand.

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