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Harry Metcalfe and Akio Toyoda – evo Hall of Fame

evo founder and former Toyota CEO are our first Hall of Fame inductees

For this, the inaugural year of the evo Hall of Fame, we decided to honour not one but two outstanding individuals who have both shaped evo’s world, albeit in very different ways.

Selecting our first inductee, our individual of the year, was no easy task. We are fortunate to have so many talented, innovative and inspirational people in our industry, and those working in the field of alternative fuels were often at the forefront of our minds in 2023. The likes of Paddy Lowe and the work Zero Petroleum has carried out with carbon-neutral synthetic fuel warranted recognition; similarly Andy Wilson and his team at Coryton, developing biofuels.

And then there were was Olaf Scholtz, the German Chancellor, who lobbied the EU to allow cars powered by e-fuel to be sold after 2035 and precipitated Italy following suit. ‘He took a lot of personal and political flak in return,’ argued James Taylor, ‘but it set an important precedent that has helped the industry broaden its scope when it comes to determining the correct energy sources for every mobility option we face.’

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John Barker singled out Caterham’s Bob Laishley. ‘Caterham’s CEO has done a brilliant job of presenting a totally new concept for a future EV Caterham whilst respecting and understanding the values the brand is built on,’ said John. ‘He’s managed to do an enormous amount with very modest funding.’

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In 2023 we finally drove the Aston Martin Valkyrie and witnessed one race car dominate its competitors, and both came from the mind of Adrian Newey. ‘The Valkyrie is massively late, but it’s a car that many said could never work but it emphatically does,’ argued Dickie Meaden, ‘and the RB19 has proven to be not only an unbeatable Formula 1 car in 2023 but will surely enter the history books alongside McLaren’s MP4/4 and Newey’s own Williams FW15 as one of F1’s greatest ever.’

Talking of the MP4/4, Jethro Bovingdon nominated its creator, Gordon Murray, who in four years has taken his V12-engined sub-1000kg T.50 from concept to production in true GMA no-compromise style. ‘Now we just need him to do it with a car that costs £50k!’ added Jethro.

Yet when it came to our first 2023 inductee there was one name that kept coming up. One that had formed part of many conversations we had throughout the year – and years previously.

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Akio Toyoda has controlled and steered the world’s largest car company through global crises, but this hasn’t stopped his engineers and designers continuing to experiment and innovate, to lead and support sectors from which rivals have walked away. Neither has he let himself be distracted by those saying one energy source has to be the only option: ‘Just like the fully autonomous cars that we were all supposed to be driving by now, BEVs are just going to take longer to become mainstream than the media would like us to believe,’ he said in 2022.

‘After 14 years, he stepped down as president and CEO of the company his grandfather founded, so it seems the right time to recognise what a champion of driver’s cars and motorsport he has been,’ said Henry Catchpole. ‘The GR cars are a beacon of affordable performance – and manual gearboxes – in an increasingly pricey landscape. Anyone that enters the N24 under a pseudonym is pretty cool, too.’

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Akio Toyoda has also been prepared to speak out regarding the rules and regulations in the World Endurance Championship, not to directly benefit his team, but to improve the sport as a whole. He is also working to broker a deal for Subaru to return to the WRC to compete against his own, has signed off factory entries into the Dakar and until recently the company has had a presence in NASCAR, too.

Toyota isn’t one of the more obvious brands that we focus on in evo, but for a company that vies for the top spot as the world’s largest car maker, under Toyoda’s leadership it has become increasingly relevant to anyone who cares about the thrill of driving. For that, we are truly grateful. Welcome to the evo Hall of Fame, Toyoda-san.

Akio joins honorary Hall of Fame inductee Harry Metcalfe, a man who requires no introduction. With his dogged determination to prove others wrong and bravery in entrusting his credit rating to a group of reprobates who had pitched him an idea that so many others would have run from, Harry is the reason we are all here.

He’s never far from evo even now, quite rightly pulling your editor up if he feels we’ve attempted one drift shot too many. Congratulations Harry, we literally wouldn’t be here without you.

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