If you could turn any car into a race car, what would you pick? Something like a Corvette, or a Mustang, or a Porsche 911, maybe? Definitely not a Toyota Prius, right?
The Prius may seem like one of the least likely bases for a competitive race car, but APR Racing went and turned one into a racer anyway. Unveiled at the Tokyo Auto Salon, it’s based on the new fourth-generation 2016 Prius, and will race in the GT300 class of Japan’s Super GT series. But this is no ordinary hybrid.
As with other cars in the Super GT series, the Prius was heavily modified from stock. There’s a 3.5-liter V6 in place of the standard 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, but the Prius GT300 is still a true hybrid, with supplementary electric power. As you can plainly see, the bodywork got a serious makeover too; the race car is much lower and wider than a stock Prius, with the obligatory spoilers, splitters, and other aerodynamic aids.
This actually isn’t the first time a Prius has been built to race in Super GT. This version actually replaces a racer based on the outgoing, third-generation model. Super GT hosts a wide variety of cars, including Lamborghinis and Porsches in the GT300 class the Prius races in, and extensively-modified Japanese super coupes like the Nissan GT-R, in the higher-performance GT500 class.
Meanwhile, Toyota will continue to campaign with a much more advanced hybrid racer in the FIA World Endurance Championship, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The carmaker is expected to return with its TS040 Hybrid, a purpose-built prototype that uses a 3.7-liter V8 with electric assist. Toyota has tried for an overall win at Le Mans for the past four years, but hasn’t managed to beat Audi and Porsche.
They say racing improves the breed, so maybe someday lessons learned from these hybrid racing projects will help make Toyota’s production cars a little more exciting. The company still has a long way to go in that department.