Test drive: Racing Toyota Celica MKI


Toyota Celica GT rally 06

“Do you wanna a ride?” I had to face this kind of a spontaneous question from the owner of this precious Toyota. I almost got a heart attack. “Sorry?” I asked once again. This car is actually the pioneer and fundamental part of the success of Toyota at motorsport. I almost got the heart attack again!

I had almost my seatbelt tightened when Jozef Poláček, owner of the Celica, told me to tighten it at the right place, behind the steering wheel. “My dear heart, you have to withstand this pressure”, I was whispering while my heart rate was increasing rapidly. Now you may be thinking that it cannot be so difficult to handle old Celica with only 130hp. But this car, this car was really a proper race car. This unit was built to compete at Thousand Lakes Rally Finland. And the suspension is tuned in the Finnish way or better said sideways to. This Celica dates 1972 registration so it is really a granny but it drives still at the same way – full gas! No slow speed cornering, this car is asking for something more. Exactly like every good race car. Braking is impressive too. Braking force is easy to control, but anyway, you still have to bear in mind that these are racing brakes. All these packages with perfect handy steering wheel assure me that there will be loads of fun driving it on short stage.

The only new intermediate, it´s me! No time for preparation, just strong hug from the racing seat. I turned the key on “to wake up all horses”. Engine sound was just spectacular. I had to take a deep breath and let´s go for a ride with this Granny. I said Granny? This Granny is a beast. You just need to whip all horses properly otherwise it is vapid. Celica´s suspension was eating with easiness that bumpy road and all corners. Gravel was hitting the chassis making it even noisier as there is no insulation. You just hear and feel everything. Five speed manual gearbox makes its specific clonk noise during every gear change. Everything is completely different when driving this car. No comfort, but it is addictive anyway.
I am approaching first corner, I concentrate myself to put the Celica´s nose directly where I want. Little bit of Scandinavian flick and then look for the apex. I was simply enjoying this pure driving and cornering control. Jozef, the owner, was shouting at me via intercom. “You cannot drive like this otherwise your time will be poor. You know what? I don’t care, I just want to have a fun.”

This retired racing Celica was imported to Slovakia in 2009. It had a long active life, so it needed someone to take little bit of more care. Today, Celica is exactly as great looking as in 1972. Four cylinder engine comes from GT model. There are two Weber carburettors taking care of the air-fuel mixture. Celica weights less than 890 kg so if you were laughing those ONLY 130 hp, now you should be respectful. Low weight, 130 hp and rear wheel drive can make it dance very easily.
Celica was born to respond Mustang fame in United States. You can even find some small similar features. It may explain why Celica was also called “Japanese Mustang”. Toyota used the latest technology to demonstrate that Celica will be capable to compete and will find its place on the market.
First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to Jozef Poláček to give me this opportunity. Celica did not suffer any damage and my head is full of amazing and unforgettable experience I had with racing Celica MK1. Every time I see the photo of this white Celica, I have a goose skin at my back.

By Samuel Vanko