Toyota reportedly to market Prius GT300 in Super GT racing instead of GT 86
Rumors have surfaced that Toyota is planning to enter the Super GT race series with a Prius. While hardly known as a speedy car, Toyota perhaps wants to burnish the Prius's image by taking it to the races.
The, largely based in Asia, Super GT race series uses cars based on FIA's GT classes. Manufacturers, like Toyota, build cars to meet specifications of the class, providing cars to race teams. The GT300 class targets 300 horsepower, and limiters are installed in each car meant to keep the cars in the race grid evenly matched to make for exciting racing.
A Japanese publication named Auto Sport Magazine reports what may be a rumor saying that Toyota is developing a hybrid car, for the Super GT 300 class, that will be called the Prius GT 300. We won't know for certain until the Super GT series announces the participating teams in January 2012. Auto Sport Magazine says "the new Prius model will be modified to race in the GT300 class". Given that the stock 2012 Prius has an 80 HP electric motor and 98 HP gas engine, the modifications will be quite extensive. The rendering in the magazine shows a whole new body in a race car style.
One may look at this, scratch their head, and go Prius, racing, say, what? It's not like the task is impossible. Larger electric and gasoline motors are available today, making it a matter of engineering to mate them up in the style of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system.
One point of interest is that, if the reports are true, Toyota isn't taking the obvious route of souping up their GT 86 sports coupe for the Super GT. Instead they're starting with the Prius. Clearly they want to shake us out of preconceived notions of what a Prius can be or do. And the Prius GT 300 won't be the only hybrid in the series, Honda is expected to send a GT300 version of the CR-Z.
As many have recognized before electric (or hybrid) vehicles are stereotyped into the pigeon-hole of slow boring ugly golf carts. Some electrified vehicles have only reinforced this image, and its left us with a cultural bias against electrification. Some however realize that most new technologies get started towards mass adoption by racing addicted gear heads getting excited by a new technology. For example the Tesla Motors team knew they had to blow up the stereotypes for Tesla to be successful, hence they based the Roadster on a Lotus sports car. A couple hundred or more teams around the planet are developing electric or hybrid race cars and motorcycles for several race series.
We are at the beginning of a wave of change towards electrified vehicles. Stay tuned next month to see whether this rumor turns out to be true.