One Person Actually Operates the Sole 1995 Toyota MR2 GT1 Road Car Ever Constructed

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By Car Brand Experts

The scarcer a vehicle is, the higher the likelihood that its possessor considers it too extraordinary to operate. Numerous one-of-a-kinds waste their existence within museums, or even worse, deteriorate as “assets” in the treasury of some Gollum. However, this doesn’t apply to the SARD MC8; this distinctive Toyota MR2-derived GT1 homologation vehicle broke free from its confinement years ago, and it’s presently spending its days where it rightfully belongs—on the streets.

The SARD MC8 originates from the GT1 period of endurance racing when manufacturers were obligated to manufacture minimum one road car to partake in the paramount GT category. This regulation gifted us with creations like the Nissan R390, Porsche 911 GT1 Strassenversion, and other racing vehicles that occasionally bore resemblance to road cars, yet often shared little in common with them apart from being purpose-built prototypes. Once more, though: not the SARD MC8.

Formulated by Sigma Advanced Research Development, one of Toyota’s official affiliate racing teams, the MC8 was founded on the structure of a second-generation Toyota MR2 (or SW20). Instead of the road car’s horizontal 2.0-liter turbo, it adopted a 4.0-liter 1UZ-FE V8 from the Lexus LS400, equipped with dual turbos achieving 590 horsepower and 506 pound-feet of torque. It was arranged longitudinally, requiring the wheelbase to be extended using a tubular rear subframe. Naturally, this entailed a full remake of its suspension and extensive use of composites in its distinctive body design.

An image from the time of the SARD MC8's creation.
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An image from the time of the SARD MC8’s creation. Toyota

Despite the MR2’s triumph in the Japanese Grand Touring Championship, securing both the GT300 constructors’ and drivers’ crowns in 1998 and 1999, the extensively enhanced SARD MC8-R did not fare as favorably. In the 1995 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it withdrew after merely completing 14 laps. Its participation in 1996 was marginally less unsuccessful—which may sound like a contradictory statement, but its performance cannot be deemed satisfactory. Wrapping up with 256 laps, it occupied the final position in its category, trailing the victorious 911 GT1 by 97 laps and standing as the penultimate finisher. Despite SARD’s ongoing development efforts, the 1997 iteration failed to meet the qualification requirements, subsequently replaced by the Toyota GT-One in 1998. (Interestingly, the latter also appeared to possess a conformity car, albeit one that might currently be decaying in a scrapyard.)

Despite the futile nature of its racing endeavors, the MC8-R managed to inspire the creation of a street vehicle that is now considered the ultimate manifestation of MR2s—surpassing even the official TRD-2000GT widebody. The singular ’95-model MC8 changed hands to an undisclosed entity, disappearing from public sight for years. However, in early 2015, it reappeared on the market, with its mysterious custodian expressing a desire for it to be owned by an individual who would truly value it.

That wish came true: the MC8 found a dedicated caretaker in the form of Instagram user @mc8_channel, who has been showcasing the one-of-a-kind GT1 road car across Japan for several years. While the exact mileage remains a mystery, it’s evident that this rare vehicle is being driven more extensively than many common vintage cars. By being utilized as intended, it not only brings joy to onlookers but also ensures its longevity. This mutually beneficial scenario sets it apart from other GT1 homologation cars.

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