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New Toyota Vios is now the Vios Cup safety car

Obviously, it’s prettier than the race cars themselves

A glimpse of what the new Vios would look like in Vios Cup livery (minus the light bar). PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

You already know that Toyota Motor Philippines admirably runs a one-make race series featuring its best-selling subcompact sedan, the Vios. Popularly called the Vios Cup, the motorsport competition is now in its fifth season. In fact, the current season just held its second leg last weekend around a meticulously barricaded street circuit in Filinvest, Alabang.

Those who went and watched the race at the venue—and even those who saw it online via TMP’s official Facebook page—may have noticed the fresh-looking safety car. We say fresh because, one, the role had been previously played by the 86 sports coupe, and, two, the new safety car was none other than the recently launched “full model change” Vios.

You can’t possibly miss the new Vios with that aggressively sharp headlight design. PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

Yes, the safety car was the top-of-the-line 1.5 G Prime variant of the new Vios, which meant it was equipped with the 106hp 2NR-FE Dual VVT-i four-cylinder gasoline engine mated to a continuously variable transmission. According to TMP executive Carlo Ablaza, the safety car was mostly stock, save for the driver’s bucket seat, the roof-mounted light bar, the Rota alloy wheels, the TRD suspension, and the limited-slip differential. Ablaza told VISOR that they had installed the LSD so the driver—in this case the British driving instructor Rupert Crook—could have “some fun” around the track.

The view the front-runners will get to stare at. PHOTOS BY VERNON B. SARNE

Many people are now wondering if Toyota is going to deploy the new Vios onto the grid not just as the safety car but as the competing race cars themselves. Well, the answer to that is simply “not this year.” TMP will finish Vios Cup Season 5—with one more leg remaining, to be held at Clark International Speedway—using the existing batch of old Vios cars.

Which brings us to the obvious question: What happens next year? That’s the thing—nothing is final yet as you read this. The word around the paddock is that TMP is still studying the feasibility of a sixth Vios Cup season. You see, should there be another series in 2019, that would require the complete overhaul of the entire grid, owing to the fact that there is now a new Vios model. This means the participating dealerships (and even the privateers) will have to spend again for the acquisition of new cars. And that’s not going to be cheap, as TMP does not subsidize the race cars.

TMP’s top management is reportedly in the process of securing commitments from enough number of dealers to see if the Vios Cup featuring the new model is still viable. Toyota Dagupan dealer principal Rene So expressed support for whatever Toyota would end up deciding on doing. “If TMP stages the Vios Cup again next year, we’re in,” he declared, adding that he knew of at least two other dealer principals who were likewise willing to continue joining the race series should the distributor of the Japanese car brand keep the Vios Cup.

At least the driver gets a sporty bucket seat. PHOTOS BY VERNON B. SARNE

We guess we’ll just have to wait for TMP’s decision, which probably won’t be known until the very end of the year (or maybe even the start of next year). Whatever happens, at least last weekend’s spectators were able to see the new Vios wearing the Vios Cup livery—and leading a field of its race-prepped predecessors.

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist since July 1995. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.