Earlier this week we got our first good look at the GR 86, Toyota’s take on the second generation of the rear-wheel drive, boxer-powered coupe it co-developed with Subaru. Toyota happens to share a close partnership with Gran Turismo, and the manufacturer’s Gazoo Racing division has wasted no time in announcing that the GR 86 is coming to Gran Turismo Sport later this year.
Like the GR Supra and GR Yaris before it, the GR 86 will be a core part of Toyota’s Gazoo Racing GT Cup in Gran Turismo Sport. This championship, now in its third year alongside Gran Turismo’s usual FIA-backed Nations Cup and Manufacturer Series, sees competitors face off in one-make races starring Toyota sports cars.
Qualifying rounds for the 2021 Gazoo Racing GT Cup kick off in a little under three weeks’ time, on April 25, and run until August. The world final, featuring 24 top qualifiers split across five regions, will take place in December with a car and track combination yet to be confirmed.
The GR 86 will join the party in the last qualifying round, planned for August 22 and set at the Mount Panorama circuit in Australia. However, the car will likely be introduced in the game before then, judging from Gazoo Racing’s announcement:
In addition to the GR Supra and GR Yaris, the recently-announced GR 86 is scheduled for introduction in the middle of the year. By varying the car models for each round, players can enjoy virtual racing with a variety of cars, something that is difficult in real-life motorsports.
The GR 86 was always destined for inclusion in Gran Turismo, given how closely Toyota and GT developer Polyphony Digital have worked over the last few years. Still, the fact GT Sport is due to receive yet more free content in 2021 after getting a handful of new cars in 2020 is a nice surprise. The game released way back in 2017 after all, and it’s reasonable to think that Polyphony might focus all of its efforts into getting Gran Turismo 7 across the finish line at this point.
But GT Sport has set a precedent for annual championships, and new vehicles like the GR 86 present an excellent way to drum up enthusiasm and participation for such events. Toyota notoriously shied away from lending its licenses to other racing game franchises over the previous generation, leading to the following deleted, classic interaction between the automaker’s U.K. division and a fan wondering why the company was missing from Need for Speed Heat back in 2019.
The NFS crew had a pretty good response to that.
Since then, Toyota has returned to series that aren’t Gran Turismo with a sizable debut in to Forza Horizon 4 in 2019 and inclusion in last year’s Project Cars 3. Nevertheless, Gran Turismo still gets the company’s latest sports cars first. Among console racing titles, GT Sport is the only game that features the GR Yaris, and the only one alongside Project Cars 3 to have the GR Supra.
While the racing genre is looking pretty dormant for 2021, since GT7 and the next NFS have been delayed and there’s no Forza in sight, it’s good to see existing games still receiving a bit of support here and there. As for those looking forward to the GR 86 and new BRZ sparring off on the Tokyo Expressway course, you’ll likely have to wait until GT7 lands to see that battle.