Obscure Japanese Sports Car Of The Week: Kuruma (Inter Proto Series)

25/3/12, 3:44, 13085 Views (when posted)

Gran Turismo has taught me much about Japanese sports cars, from "Midnight Purple" Skyline GT-Rs and the Toyota Supra to the Honda Beat and Mazda/Autozam AZ-1 and much more besides (JGTC FTW), which has made me something of a fan of them, as you might imagine. As such, this new one caught my eye. The only problem is that it's only been reported on in Japan, so bear with me while I tell you what I can work out about this, the "Kuruma", thanks to the trusty Google Translate...

The Kuruma is a car designed for a new one-make racing series called the "Inter Proto Series", which will get under way in 2013. Unlike SUPER GT cars (formerly the JGTC), this isn't laden with enormous wings and spoilers. What it does have is a mid-mounted 3950cc naturally-aspirated V6 engine making 340PS (335bhp) at 6400rpm, a weight of 1000-1100kg and - I would imagine - rear-wheel-drive. The series is run by a Mr. Masanori Sekiya, apparently a leading man in the Japanese motorsport industry who had something to do with Japan's first (and so-far only) Le Mans 24 victory in the Mazda 787B and I think the organisation building the car is based at Fuji Speedway, which is the circuit in the above video.

The Kuruma is built around a carbon fibre tub, but with a full rollcage for rigidity and protection, of course. On paper, especially with racing slick tyres, this ought to be a pretty quick little car (well, I say little; 4.4 metres about matches a Porsche 997). The above stats give it a power-to-weight ratio of 305-335bhp/tonne, which is 2012 Nissan GT-R territory (Godzilla has 313bhp/tonne). A lack of big wings will also give it a high top speed, useful at Fuji Speedway, and you have to say it's quite a handsome-looking thing, not mould-breaking in any way but not really having a bad angle on it either (the headlights look like those of a Vauxhall VX220 though).

Despite supercar looks and apparently room for two, this is a purpose-built race car, with an FIA-approved racing fuel tank, on-board fire extinguisher and built in air jacks to prop it up in the pits for a tyre change. Power is delivered to the wheels via a Ricardo 6-speed racing sequential gearbox. A sequential 'box has a clutch pedal, but it's only needed at low speeds, or when in first gear. It adds a degree of skill to getting it off the line, but when you're up to racing speeds you only have to knock the stick up or down to change gear, as you may have seen with a PlayStation or Xbox wheel, or in this car's case use paddles. As for the actual car's wheel, a green button puts it in neutral (which allows you to then engage reverse - wouldn't want to accidentally go from first to reverse under braking!). Unlike an F1 car's steering wheel, there are only seven buttons to play with, one of which says 'DRINK'. Lovely!

That's pretty much all there is, from what I can find, so I'll just leave you with some photos of it. Their website is here and they have a Facebook page. In Japanese, of course.

Rear view. Not the prettiest tail, but that's because it's all purpose. Big central exhaust is an interesting touch

The steering wheel. Paddles change gear.

Pedals and paddles control the gearbox. Clutch pedal only used to start and stop in 1st gear

MMM, carbon fibre velocity stacks!
The basic tub and reinforcing spaceframe of the car, with the 4.0 V6 mounted right behind the cockpit
Getting ready for some fun at Fuji Speedway, home to the longest (uninterrupted) straight of any race track...In The World.
SUPER GT driver Taniguchi-san prepares to navigate the Aventador-style door for a test run
Here we can see the front crash structures (the bits sticking out) and the silver air jack for pit stops
Fibreglass model at the 2012 Tokyo Auto Salon
Some Stats and specs for you... in Japanese!

Kuruma translates from Japanese as "Car" (or vehicle/wheel/carriage). Not the most imaginative name...

While it may lack wings, a big front splitter and diffuser still give it downforce. Central roof scoop looks cool

Tune in next week for another "Obscure Japanese Sports/Supercar Of The Week!

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