Toyota’s Production Engineers (PE) labor for the love of craftsmanship and motorsports. Veterans Justin LaChausse (Chief PE) and Stephen Byington (PE Project Lead) were joined by first timers Aaron Hoff (PE Specialist), Matt Mudge (TE Motorsports Team Lead), Tom Duesing (FR-S Powertrain Lead) and Bruce Friend (PE Specialist) at the 32nd annual One-Lap-Of-America. Byington, Hoff, Mudge and Friend piled into an unassuming Toyota Avalon while LaChausse and Duesing piloted the Scion FR-S.
Traveling almost 3,500 miles between 9 race locations over 8 days, One-Lap is a marathon test of skill, teamwork and fortitude. Attracting one of the most diverse groups of drivers assembled anywhere in racing, teams traverse legendary tracks for the love of motors and the thrill of competition. On the track it all comes down to whose car is faster and who is the best driver. For Toyota’s PE team, it all comes down to better engineering.
Starting as a pre-production vehicle, the Avalon was sourced only a month prior to kick-off – arriving with 9,600 miles on it. Armed with a stock drivetrain, the Avalon was outfitted with TRD Sway Bar, TRD Lowering Springs and TRD Oil Filter and Cap. The team designed and printed their own custom speaker covers and fender badging with a 3D printer.
Additional support came from Chuck Wade and the Motorsports Technical group at TMS who also lent a hand on the build of the FR-S. Sam Puleri worked installing the first class tig welded cage in the FR-S, while the Avalon was outfitted with a hoop bar cage that was designed and built by team members after Wade’s safety consultation.
LaChausse and Byington acquired a street legal Scion FR-S in October. They upgraded the bone stock car with parts that included TRD Sway Bars, TRD Wheels, TRD Steering Wheel and a TRD Dual Quad Rear Tip Exhaust.
With minor engine issues leading up the event, the team finished their final tune-ups only days before the first race. Without the capability to confirm the car’s performance beforehand, many questions would have to be answered on the track.
Putting their preparations to the test when and where it counts, the Avalon and FR-S hit the track running. With only 1 recon lap followed by 3 time-captured laps at each track, the drivers performed nearly sight unseen. Combining their knowledge and experience with as much video and video game preparation as possible, the team remained agile, learning and adjusting each step of the way.
In Pittsburgh they endured standing water with a near river flowing across the track after a blind turn. It was the first track of the series and the team watched anxiously as the returning champion’s car made contact and had to exit the track. Nervous but determined, they waded through the water and made their laps, enjoying the triumph of successfully completing their first track.
“We beat cars that we shouldn’t have, and did better than we should have.” -Matt Mudge
At Road America, the series’ fastest track, Hoff ran out of real estate around a tight turn and came off track. “Man I drove this fine on X-Box” Hoff joked. Later the breaks went soft on his cool-down lap and the team had to jump in to evaluate the car. They found a quick fix by taking off the turn signal housing and cutting inner holes on the fender to promote air flow.
A clever bumper sticker reading “Sleep Is For The Weak” proved a worthy omen as the PE team battled the track during the day and hit the transit at night. Averaging 4 hours of sleep, the guys found out just how much you can pack into a FR-S and Avalon. The race teams were followed by a Sienna carrying 5 media personnel and 2 members of the management team in a Prius.
Between Palmer and Summit Point, the teams passed a competitor broken-down on the interstate. So after dropping some of the team off at the hotel for the night, a couple team members sacrificed their own sleep and back-tracked over an hour to pick up and deliver the stranded competitors.
The Avalon and FR-S turned heads everywhere they stopped. In West Virginia the team was stopped twice by the public thinking they were famous racers. With people asking for a look inside, wanting to talk specs or waiting to hear the sound of the exhaust, the team happily obliged, giving many passers-by their first up-close look inside a genuine Toyota Race Car.
“Toyota engineers get to do fun things - we’re not just working on appliances. We’re getting out there and testing the cars, putting them through their paces and getting to do hands-on things.” - Tom Duesing
The Toyota Way is driving continuous improvement and Toyota’s PE team is racing towards the next generation of engineering.
“I learn something new every time. I am humbled and fortunate that our company allows us to do this.” -Justin LaChausse
Reduce back pressure and increase the efficiency of your engine’s cycle while increasing speed and performance with a TRD Exhaust upgrade. The Scion FR-S was turning heads and ears on the track and the turnpike. Upgrade your exhaust, increase engine power and performance with the head turning sound of TRD.