We had just tied up a piece on badass modified minivans when Toyota announced that Top Gear host Rutledge Wood and Grand-Am Rolex GT Champion Craig Stanton will be driving a duo of race-prepped, modified minivans across the east coast. Yes — racing, in minivans. And we’re riding shotgun.
Competing in Brock Yates’ One Lap of America is one of the ultimate automotive experiences in America, and should be on every petrolhead’s bucket list. The race follows in the footsteps of the Cannonball Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Dash, which was the inspiration for the film Cannonball Run, and is rumored to be one of the most grueling races in the world.
Covering nearly 3,000 miles across a dozen states in just eight days, challengers hit road courses, autocross events, drag strips, and skid pads all over the Midwest and east coast, totaling seventeen timed races at eight unique venues. This means racing at a track in one state, and upon completion, packing up and driving through the night to another course in another state, just to do it all over again.
There is no respite and no quarter given for mishaps along the way, so driving to and from said race tracks on little to no sleep is just as crucial as competing well the day of the race. The vehicles seen here are the actual vans being piloted, and while Toyota is racing everything from track-prepped FR-S track demons to custom tweaked Avalons, the minivan remains the star of the show at this year’s One Lap.
So what does it mean when you put a couple of celebrities, some modified minivans, a slew of engineers, and one gregarious autos writer on the road together for a whole week? While no one really knows for sure, one thing is for certain: These aren’t your parents’ minivans.
These two track attackers have been designed to “shatter the perception of what it means to own a minivan,” and according to Toyota, they’re ideal for One Lap since the Sienna is “the ultimate road trip vehicle, with its comfort, utility, and versatility.”
The R-Tuned Sienna seen here was first introduced at SEMA last November, and proved to the world that it could compete by besting a Camaro SS on track at Willow Springs by more than a second. That feat was completed on a stock engine with an automatic transmission, accompanied by just a few basic bolt-ons, an OS Giken limited-slip differential, and a tune. A few key tweaks that also help level the playing field are the slew of suspension mods, the upgraded brakes and fluids, those stickier wheels and tires, an intake/exhaust combo, and one hell of a strict diet.
As for the white van, that’s the never-before-seen “SE + concept,” which will make its debut in South Bend, Indiana during the first race. According to Toyota, “the SE + takes the sporty flair of the SE and adds a little more spice with a decidedly dark and stormy treatment.”
Even though this second van will also be competing in One Lap, it’s in a different class altogether due to being more of an aesthetically upgraded Sienna than a performance machine. Key features on this include modified front and rear bumpers, sharper headlights and tail lamps, different badges, bezels, and door handles, black satin mirrors, “Laser Black” 19-inch wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero tires, two-tone roof rails, and a spoiler extension.
The R-Tuned van will compete in the Truck/SUV class and will earn points toward Toyota’s overall standings, while the SE + will compete in an Exhibition class. We begin our voyage this Saturday on the skid pad at Tire Rack headquarters in South Bend, and conclude on the same track on May 7. So stay tuned, because this is going to be one wild road trip!