When you work at Toyota's Arizona Proving Ground, you think a little differently. Maybe it's the desert heat. Maybe it's that drive to get the most out of cars. When they had to come up with a collarborative activity, they decided to challenge endurance racing. Welcome to the minds of engineers DJ Quint and Mike Donick.
Why start a endurance racing? To race a car, drive it into the ground, and figure out how to make it better the next time.
The guys started Team TAPG Motorsports in 2013 as a way to celebrate their love of cars, while building skills that would benefit their work. Unsurprisingly, most of the engineers are car fans—who realized not everyone gets to grow up to become a race car driver.
The idea of endurance racing was something we often kicked around. So, it wasn't that long before they settled on their long-term goal: The 2019 25 Hours of Thunderhill Presented by Hawk Performance, the longest closed course road race in the United States.
"We picked the 25-hour race because it was attainable, but still very challenging," Quint recalls. "We wanted to include people from across the organization."
But even professional car engineers can't start with a 25-hour race. In fact, it took them three years before they felt ready to tackle Thunderhill. Early three and six-hour races were filled with mistakes that hampered their success.
"That first year was a lot of fun," Donick laughs. "But we weren't very good at it."
There were challenges in just getting their 2013 Scion FR-S physically ready to race. There was also a myriad of logistics in getting volunteers headed in the same direction and applying the learnings from one race to another.
That's where the Toyota work philosophy really gave them a competitive advantage. They used an orderly, goal-focused process for improving vehicles during the day. Applying that to their project at night started to result in quick gains.
By the end of the second year, they really started to come together. The car was dialed in and performing consistently. They'd learned from being on the track for countless hours, followed by even more time spent in the shop.
Once during a pit stop, they accidentally cross-threaded a lug nut. So, they went back to the shop and came up with a new design that can't be cross-threaded.
Eventually there came that one race when nothing went wrong—and they won by multiple laps.
"We were able to not just focus on one thing at a time," Quint says. "The iterative changes we'd made along the way finally all clicked into place. And we started winning. A lot."
The guys of TAPG Motorsports are headed into their seventh year now, and they almost always dominate the leader board. Only a few of the original members are still around, but the excitement is definitely still there.
One big change for this year—they're trading in their 2013 Scion FR-S for a new Supra.
"It's a mixture of excitement and nervousness," Quint says. "The Supra is awesome. But it's a new car that we'll have to learn all over again. The good thing is we get to apply learnings from six years of previous work into this build."
They're also running in a faster class (two levels up, actually). With that comes the thrill of speed and even more new experiences for the team to build around. And, of course, the elation of winning together.
One of the best parts of this has been the accountability between co-workers and friends," Donick reflects. "It's a hundred times better when you win as a team instead of by yourself."
Even if you're not a TRD engineer, your Toyota can be race ready. Check out the many performance parts and accessories that can give you that edge and style. Visit the eCommerce store today and find the best fit for your ride.