Photo by Automotive News' Hans GreimelEnlarge Photo
Take a quick look at photograph of the line up of brightly colored race cars, complete with sponsor decals, crash-helmet-wearing drivers, and it looks like just another car race.
But take your time, and you see something strange about the line of patiently-waiting race cars at the Fuji Speedway circuit in Japan.
Every single car is a Toyota Prius hybrid. And each car is a competitor in the 2011 Toyota-sponsored Prius Cup.
Held to help promote Toyota’s hybrid technology, 29 dealers across Japan took part, each vying for the highest fuel economy and best possible crew service during the race.
As a consequence, the fastest car around the track isn’t necessarily the winner: It’s the team which gets the highest average fuel economy.
Driving slowly won’t help, however. Unlike the RAC Future Car Challenge we attended earlier this year in the U.K., the Prius Cup penalized teams who drove too slowly around the track as Automotive News’ Hans Greimel found out while taking part.
The 2012 Toyota Prius. Image: ToyotaEnlarge Photo
Tackling the Formula 1 race track at speeds of around 40 mph might not be every race fan’s idea of a good day, but the slow speeds didn’t stop serious competition from taking place.
Even the pit teams took the race seriously, aiming for the shortest possible service time when each car entered the pits mid-race.
While the race may not have been as fast as a Formula 1 race, hybrid and electric car racing is here to stay.
Earlier last this month, we told you more about the teams hoping to enter the 2013 Formula E world championship. Then last week, we told you about the inaugural all-electric Indy 500 involving two Mitsubishi i electric cars
And while Toyota’s executive vice president Shinichi Sasaki confirmed that Toyota is working on its own sports hybrid as well as entering a hybrid car into the 24 heures du Mans endurance race next year, he doesn't think green racing will take off in the U.S.
“Americans aren’t as concerned about fuel economy,” he said when explaining why the Prius cup is unlikely to arrive in the U.S. “They are focused on speed.”
Do you agree? Let us know in the Comments below.