If you\u2019ve never seen the Toyota 86 Racing Series, you\u2019re missing out. Sure the races take place early in the morning, and the trackside bars don\u2019t open until 10am, but there\u2019s still plenty to be excited about. For one, it\u2019s an outlet for young drivers to showcase their skills in front of talent scouts and large TV audiences, and two, the series captures the same racing spirit as the Supercars without requiring your attention for a full 161 laps. Last weekend, Toyota invited us out to the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 to experience the 86 Racing Series first hand and revel in the youthful exuberance of its drivers.\r\n\r\nNearing the end of its second season, the Toyota 86 Racing Series is an affordable solution to the exorbitant costs associated with motorsport. For around $70,000 AUD, a team can buy a Toyota 86 and fit it with a complete racing kit. It\u2019s not cheap, but far more accessible than the other series\u2019. For example, a Supercar can cost upwards of $500,000.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe lower price point encourages young drivers to take their passion for racing beyond go-karts and have a real shot at a professional racing career. If they don\u2019t succeed, the $125,000 prize pool can at least help take the edge off. The series also caters to more experienced drivers looking to continue their passion for racing. This season, at least 5 of the 40-odd drivers were born before 1980.\r\n\r\nThe 86 Series kicked-off the Bathurst 1000 bright and early on Saturday with the first of three races; each just six laps around the mountain - the perfect length for short attention spans, as the race and podium presentation were done and dusted within an hour. It\u2019s also a nice contrast to Sunday\u2019s big endurance race.\r\n\r\nThe victory in race 1 went to 21-year-old driver Cameron Hill who took the time to share his love for the series. \u201cI think what\u2019s special about it is its just grassroots, it caters to everyone,\u201d he said. \u201cThere are drivers with a lot of experience, older gentlemen as well, then there\u2019s guys having their first ever taste of race cars. It\u2019s a really good mix, and it really showcases Toyota\u2019s products.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe 86s themselves are sleek vehicles based on the Toyota GT and GT5 Manual with controlled specifications to ensure suitability and reliability while keeping costs to a minimum. Since its debut in 2012, the 86 has become a cult favourite, winning over critics and motor enthusiasts alike, with its nimble dynamics, low centre of gravity and near perfect weight distribution.\r\n\r\nBuilt with a 2-litre, 4-cylinder boxer engine, superb handling and max speed of 230, km\/h, the 86 is perfect for closed circuit racing. The top speed is impressive considering the Supercars can just touch 300km\/h in the right conditions. The performance kit is also developed by Aussie rally champion Neal Bates who is heavily involved with the series.\r\n\r\nEvery vehicle is built the same so to create a level playing field. \u201cWe are all in the same car. At the end of the day it comes down to the driver,\u201d said 19-year-old series leader Jimmy Vernon, who succeeded Hill at the top of the ladder after a mechanic's interference resulted in Hill losing his standing before the second race. That day had more drama than an episode of Days of Our Lives.\r\n\r\nBathurst 1000 was the second to last circuit of the 2017 racing calendar. Taking on such an iconic track didn\u2019t go unnoticed by the young drivers. \u201cIt\u2019s quite daunting,\u201d said Cameron, in a chat before his disqualification. \u201cIt never gets old; it\u2019s just an amazing place.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nFor each circuit, Toyota invites a number of experienced drivers to race as wildcard entries. They are ineligible for the prize money and participate purely for the fun of it. They also entice a broader racing audience. Bathurst saw 3 wildcard entries: Leanne Tander, Kiwi Jack Milligan and 1997 Bathurst 1000 winner David Brabham.\r\n\r\nBrabham had been waiting for the right opportunity to join the 86s and there is no track like the one that made him a household name. \u201cI managed to win it 20 years ago, so it means something to me more than just a great race track,\u201d he said.\r\n\r\nOn the subject of the 86 Series, Brabham sees it as a positive force for the future of motor racing. \u201cIt\u2019s an opportunity to understand the game,\u201d he said, talking about the lessons learned by the young drivers. \u201cIt\u2019s about how they got to drive, how they got to mix with other people on the track and the rules of the flags and racing conditions.\u201d\r\n\r\nJimmy Vernon went on to claim victory in race 2 and 3, and now he leads the competition going into the final race. \u201cTo win at Mount Panorama, especially on Sunday, it\u2019s an unbelievable feeling.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nWhile at Mount Panorama, the entire Toyota media team were treated to hot laps around the mountain with rally driver Neil Bates. Sure it was in a Toyota Camry Hybrid, and our speed limit was capped at 130km\/h, but it was still an impressive ride, and afterwards, I was forced to rethink my opinion of hybrids.\r\n\r\nI finally got to see Toyota\u2019s Tonka HiLux Concept which I first read about months ago. The custom vehicle was designed to rekindle your childhood love for Tonka and to celebrate both the 70th anniversary of Tonka and the 80th anniversary of Toyota.\r\n\r\nAs for the 86 Racing Series, the final circuit for the year is the Newcastle 500 commencing November 24. It is incredibly exciting to know drivers from all classes are taking on a new track and to see what effect it will have on my hometown. \u201cA new track is always fun,\u201d said Vernon. \u201cIt\u2019s a nice challenge, so I think it will be good because everyone is on an even playing field.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nTime will tell if Vernon, Hill or any number of the other drivers are poached by the major racing teams and then return to Mount Panorama for the most important race on the Australian motorsport calendar. It\u2019s possible, as the 86 Racing Series is a more suitable platform for launching racing careers than grooming go-kart drivers for professional motorsport.\r\nCheck it out\r\nHave you subscribed to Man of Many? You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.