It’s good to be king. In the case of Akio Toyoda, who moonlights as a race car driver as "Morizo," it's very good. His nickname came from a shrub near Toyota's headquarters in Japan; a term of endearment, maybe but also a sign that he's not a typical executive of a major manufacturer in Japan. Certainly not a stuffed shirt. Toyoda took on the Morizo pseudonym in 2007 when he competed in the 24 Hours of Nürburgring under the radar. That year, Gazoo Racing was formed as a laboratory for Toyota’s experimental racing ideas and later became the company's dedicated motorsports arm.
Gazoo Racing’s newest release is, appropriately, named for its fast-driving namesake and "master driver" during testing: the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla Morizo Edition. Only 200 numbered units will be built, and the 300-horsepower, 273 pound-foot tiny terror is daunting. Fitted with grippy high performance Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, a close-ratio manual transmission, and shorter differential gears, the hatch is track-focused—and sharp. Toyota even removed the back seat to reduce the weight of the car by 100 pounds.
Credit those touches to the GR Corolla Morizo Edition from the man himself.
"Akio Toyoda was personally involved in the GR Corolla’s development," Toyota Product Communications Senior Analyst Paul Hogard told me. "He served as the Master Driver, testing the car after each iteration."
What does that mean for this limited-edition car? Ultimately, Toyoda provided feedback from his test drives that resulted in a GR Corolla hot hatch that has enthusiasts salivating.
“With Akio’s feedback in mind, engineers developed the special Morizo Edition with increased torque, reduced weight, a modified suspension with monotube shock absorbers, and wider tread, sticky tires," Hogard said.
Toyota's two performance-oriented branches, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) and Gazoo Racing are jockeying for their place in the sun as the Japanese company scrabbles to keep its sales numbers strong. When The Drive’s Stef Schrader talked to Toyota Motor North America's Executive Vice President of Sales Bob Carter last week, he explained that Gazoo Racing will be the global brand and TRD will be a North American brand centered on trucks.
Will Morizo himself have one of these hot hatches for his personal garage? Maybe, but Toyota’s answer is coy.
“As a customer-first company, Toyota will ensure that we prioritize production of Morizo Edition cars for dealership orders so customers can enjoy its untamed energy,” Hogard told me.
When you’re the king, you can have your pick of driving any car you want, anyway.
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