Toyota, Kalitta Motorsports Bringing GR Supra to NHRA in 2022

Kalitta Motorsports and Toyota will switch from the Camry model to the GR Supra for the 2022 National Hot Rod Association season, a change that has been almost two years in the making.

The new Supra Funny Car was unveiled Sunday at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif. Drivers J.R. Todd and Alexis DeJoria will race it for the first time at Pomona in the 2022 season opener in February.

The slick Supra design will give Toyota, which has raced the Camry in NHRA since 2012, a vehicle both Todd and Toyota Racing Development executive engineer and technical director Andy Graves described as “bad-ass.”

“We really wanted to take the next step to introduce the Toyota GR Supra to the motorsports world, and what better place than to use NHRA and the Funny Car division where all our enthusiasts to be able to see a bad-ass Toyota GR Supra,” Graves said. “I think it’s going to turn a lot of heads. By far it has the most styling of any Funny Car. It definitely looks like a Supra when you see it.”

The differences between a street car and a Funny Car are, by definition, quite striking, but TRD put in extra effort to keep the Supra model as close as possible to its standard version, Graves said.

“Calty (designers) took the first shot at putting as much character as possible into the body,” Graves said. “Then we did testing in the wind tunnel and kicked it back to them with a list of refinements and improvements we’d like to see. We did four or five loops with them. It’s been almost two years in the making.”

While the arrival of the GR Supra in NHRA is largely about increasing visibility for that model in the Toyota sales environment, TRD president David Wilson said a competition boost always is an expectation when a new car is introduced.

“We’re definitely focusing on promoting and building awareness around the GR Supra, but I’d be lying if I said any time we had opportunity to bring a new body, whether it’s in NASCAR or NHRA, that we didn’t try to maximize that opportunity from a performance standpoint,” Wilson said. “The tough thing, to be candid, with a Funny Car is that it’s a challenge because it’s a bit cartoonish in the proportions. And the NHRA did not make this an easy process because, of course, they’re no dummies. Part of their objective is to make sure that we don’t pull one over on them.”

Graves said the Supra model will improve safety considerably.

“We got J.R. involved in the process to make sure that not only the Funny Car body looked as close to the GR Supra as possible but also to increase the safety aspects,” Graves said. “We designed the greenhouse bigger so that the roll cage and head padding is quite a bit bigger than the current Camry and we gained visibility in how we did the cutlines with the glass. All that is from J.R.’s leadership.”

Todd, who won the 2018 Funny Car championship, said better visibility in the new car should be a major positive. “It’s taller, and I can sit higher and see atop the engine better,” he said. “That had been somewhat limited with the Camry. I’m looking for it to make me a better driver because of the visibility change. And the front downforce will be better.”

In vehicles that cross the 300-mph barrier, every aspect of the body is important, Graves said.

“We need to have enough downforce with the Funny Car to make sure as we’re engaging clutches that we’re keeping the tires planted on the ground and that we have enough front downforce to keep the front tires down,” he said. “A Funny Car is not easy to drive, so you need the stability. Aerodynamics is huge.”

TRD plans on-track testing with the car in January. Graves said the timeline called for testing this year but that various factors resulted in delays. “There were challenges in the process,” he said. “We wanted to put as much character into the body as possible and worked with the NHRA in order to achieve that goal, and we dealt with the hiccups we see in the world today with Covid, and that kind of slowed the process.”

The model was designed and refined at TRD’s Salisbury, N.C. headquarters.

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