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5-Time Race Winner and First Toyota to Win in IMSA GTP Competition
This magnificent machine represents a great confluence of Dan Gurney’s success at racing management, Juan Manuel Fangio II’s rise to prominence, and the emergence of Toyota as a racing power, all taking place during the heyday of IMSA’s GTP racing series.
Dan Gurney had formed AAR in 1964, and during the 1980s was commissioned by Toyota to run a factory-backed IMSA program. After several successful years with GT-class Celicas, the decision was made to compete for overall honors. Chassis designer Ron Hopkins and aerodynamicist Hiro Fujimori penned the ground-effects-based car (thus the “HF” in the type designation). By using Toyota’s small but reliable four-cylinder engine the resulting prototype came in lighter than archrivals Jaguar and Nissan and eventually became a force in the GTP class.
Chassis 89T004 was built during 1990 and was thus sometimes entered as an HF90 and is often referred to as a Mk II. It was driven mostly by Argentina’s Juan Manuel Fangio II – nephew of El maestro, considered by many to be the greatest racer of all time. Fangio II would demonstrate that speed behind the wheel was genetic with his immediate proficiency as a prototype driver and later in the PPG IndyCar series. After a season of development work, the early races of 1990 proved that the Eagles were as fast as the competition with several poles and fastest laps scored.
At Heartland Park in Topeka, Kansas, on May 6th Fangio II engaged in a stirring duel with the Nissan of Geoff Brabham and recorded the AAR and Toyota’s first overall victory in the GTP category. Fangio II won three more times in 1990 with chassis 89T004, always after excellent battles with Brabham. The top results came at Sears Point, San Antonio, and Del Mar, and this was followed by another victory at the June 1991 Watkins Glen round.
After its racing life, the car was purchased from AAR by Dennis Aase, himself an AAR Toyota racing veteran. Under it’s subsequent and current ownership, the Eagle was later exhibited at the Museo Fangio in Balcarce, Argentina, in the livery and specifications conforming to its Topeka victory. While currently not in running order, lacking an ECU, and some other ancillary parts, the Eagle has recently been stored in a California shop that regularly works with AAR and Toyota Racing Development (TRD), and presents an excellent platform for a full restoration. Upon completion this AAR/Toyota Eagle would become a star attraction at vintage events around the world.