1995 Toyota SARD MC8-R Pilots: A. Ferté, M. Martini, P. Fabre Team: Team Menicon SARD Co Ltd Race: 24th overall (15th in GT1 class) at Le Mans in 1996 Spark - S4452 (resin)
Formed in 1972, Sigma Automotive started out developing and producing racing parts and accessories and operating their own racing team. In 1985 the racing division became an independent company, called SARD (Sigma Advanced Racing Development). They established a partnership with Toyota and always using cars from the brand, did quite a lot of prototype and GT racing, especially in Japan. In 1993 the Group C era was over, replaced by the supercars of the GT1 class. Toyota thought that GT1 racing was a good way to promote brand name, but they had a problem. They didn’t have a GT1 car. What they did have was the MR2 and SARD as a factory team.
So SARD got a brand new MR2 and totally transformed the car. In place of the stock (and pedestrian) 2 l inline-4, a twin turbocharged version of the 1UZ-FE 3968 cm³ V8 was mounted longitudinally. The body and chassis also received modifications. In the end the car was 40 cm longer, 20 cm wider and 20 cm lower than a stock MR2. The new car was called MC8, and the race version was called MC8-R.
SARD produced two MC8-R, and fielded one in the 1995 24 Heures du Mans. With just 14 laps completed, the car had clutch problems and had to abandon. The following year SARD was back, and this time the MC8-R finished the race. The penultimate car to cross the line, but finished the race. Without a doubt this is an oddball, and I confess I knew zilch about it before I bought it. Yeah, I admit: for me, Toyota at Le Mans always meant prototypes. But since I love the oddballs of Le Mans, it didn’t take long for me to take the plunge. And I’m glad I did, because in hand it’s a VERY nice car.