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Sunday, 15 January 2012

Toyota's GT300 Entry Is the Only Hybrid You Should Care About

Can you tell what it is yet?
As well as the Subaru BRZ, this year's SUPER GT series is set to have a pretty damn awesome GT300 class, not only because of the usual mix of BMWs, Porsches, Ferraris, Nissan Zs, bespoke racers and so on, but because of Toyota's new entry, which started out in life as something you wouldn't expect to become a racing car...

You see, it's a Toyota Prius. No really, I mean it, this is a Toyota Prius racing car, with a racing engine and everything. You can check the date if you want, it's not the 1st of April. A racing team in Japan (perhaps even backed by Toyota) has decided to enter the pious hybrid into the GT300 class of the premier Japanese sports car series, SUPER GT. GT300 is the lower of the two classes, with the Nissan GT-R, Honda HSV-010 and maybe this year a Lexus LFA (replacing the old SC430) fighting it out in GT500. The number refers to horsepower, so what we have here is a 300-horsepower racing hybrid. Maybe it goes through the pit lane on electric power alone or something.

The regulations in SUPER GT allow for what's known as silhouette racers, meaning that the car is allowed to be on a bespoke chassis as long as it maintains the road car's "silhouette", or outline. So the roof and everything from the top of the wheels up has to resemble a road car. This means the Prius can retain its slippery roof line, which allows the road car to achieve a very low drag coefficient of 0.25. That could help it in a straight line compared to its rivals, which include Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches, and of course the Subaru. Of course, the huge spoilers and dive planes and so on will add drag (as well as downforce), but being a silhouette racer, it's also significantly lower than a road car, and the Cd might still be lower than the aforementioned rivals. Because they're all limited to 300 horsepower, the Prius may even have a chance of beating them all. That would be weird. We'll have to wait and see. That said, the success bias applied to winners means that it is genuinely an even playing field, so there's every chance of a strong finish. In a Prius. Against Ferraris. Just another reason to love the weird and wonderful world of Japan.


The first round of SUPER GT will be, ironically, on the 1st April, at Okayama International Circuit (previously known as Aida). You can keep abreast of all things SUPER GT on their English website. I may even start reporting on it, but that's not a promise.

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