We spend a lot of time behind the wheel our cars, and while we sit back, isolated from the world listening to another crappy middle aged one hit wonder, there’s so much more that happens behind the scenes that we never really get to know about. Every single car on the road goes through rigorous field testing before its place into production. Testing through every extreme scenario, manufacturers quite literally put their cars through hell and back. In which case, Arizona and its hell-ish like weather always offer up a sweet place to put their cars through high-demanding paces.
25 years ago, one of the world’s largest leading automotive manufacturers opened their testing facilities doors right here in our own back yard. Located just 50 some miles northwest of Phoenix in a small town known as Wittman, AZ, Toyota Motor Corporation invested $100,000,000 to build a 12,000-acre facility that featured a 10-mile high speed oval track, 60 additional miles of paved tracks, an endless back desert off-road playground and a 34,000 square foot garage.
Why Arizona? Most people don’t know this; Arizona is an all climate kind of state. Most think of us as the wild wild west desert. And while movies like Tombstone and Stagecoach with John Wayne gave us that stigma – we in fact have mountain roads with steep hills, country and urban back roads, freezing to scorching temps, snow, rain, ice, dirt roads, muddy fields and much more. It’s the ionic place to test any vehicle. And for Toyota, it’s the idealistic place to test most of their product line up, especially their trucks and special off-road vehicles.
TAPG (Toyota Arizona Proving Grounds) specializes in the core work of ride, handling, electric controls, advanced driver assistance system and driver training. The facility employs over 40 employees and 40 contract employees with extensive backgrounds in mechanical engineering, motorsport racing, and being straight up an automotive enthusiast.
However, a few employees at TAPG take things to another level. While some companies start up bowling teams, some play poker, some even do happy hour to blow off steam. TAPG blows off steam by taking a 2013 Scion FR-S and turning it into a full on race car. DJ Quint, one of head members of the race team spoke about the team and the car at hand on how it all got started with just a little team building exercise. With very limited resources and little-to-no racing experience, the team worked countless hours, raced in several events and after four years, 27 endurance racing events, the team is aimed to partake in this years “24 Hours of Thunderhill” in California.
As we sit in traffic, snapchatting on our phones, eating left over McDonald’s french fries found between the seats, we forget what it takes to develop the car that gets us from point A to point B – that keeps us sheltered from the weather – that protects us from unforeseen circumstances. While we may not have received the grand tour of their private facility, we appreciated team members of TAPG to come out and give us a very small view into their world and what goes behind closed doors.