Close-Up: APR HASEPRO GT300 Toyota Prius

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Aside from the KERS outfit on a Formula 1 car, it would be a safe bet that the last thing that goes through peoples minds when discussing motor sports is the term ‘hybrid’.   So when Toyota, along with APR Racing, and Super GT announced their intentions to develop a Prius GT300 car the buzz was quite large.  Japan has always been a leader in hybrid technology and promotion of its use, so to me, it didn’t come as much of a surprise.  It was really only a matter of time until hybrids made their way into the racing scene, and Super GT seems like a great place to start.    The Super GT series is the flagship of Japanese motor sport, and with the increase of various chassis comes an increase in fan base.  Everyone who drives a Prius will now have a reason to come watch the races and cheer on their own team; which in the end is great for the sport and probably Prius sales.  Although the consumers might be a little disappointed when they can’t get the car up to 220 km/h dropping their kids off at school.  I should point out not to get me wrong when I start throwing the term ‘hybrid’ around so loosely, because this is not your average grocery getter.  I think we would all agree that it would be a little naive of us to assume that this is a stock Prius.  While it does retain the stock hybrid system, it gets a little extra help from something special mounted in the rear.  Click past the break to learn more about the first hybrid in Super GT.

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Making it’s debut in the current season (2012), the Prius has had a rough year to put it nicely.  Up until just last weekend at Fuji, even finishing the race was a struggle for the little guy; retiring 3 out of the current 6 rounds of the season.  That all changed however when the Prius secured a 2nd place podium during Round 6.

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The less than pleasing performance of the Prius in it’s opening season is to be expected though.  It’s no different than any other racing series or team that introduces a new car.  There is much testing to be done before sufficient results show.  OK, I’m going to throw this in as a random tidbit of information, as many people are calling this a JGTC car on the FB page.  While you’re close, JGTC does not exist anymore.  The name ‘Japanese Grand Touring Championship’ (JGTC) was dropped in favor of Super GT when the series went international some years back.  I know the majority of you know this, but in case you’re new to the series or motor sports I thought it would be nice to point out.  There is actually a well written paragraph on the internet regarding the switch so I may as well past it here:

“After years of successive rules changes, at the same time, the JGTC planned holding one more race outside of Japan, in China (Shanghai), in addition to Malaysia (Sepang). However, holding the series in more than three countries violates from the definition of the “national championship” of FIA. Therefore, the series needed to be authorized directly by FIA and was not able to be named Japanese Championship because the series had to be parted from Japan Automobile Federation (JAF), the Authority Sport Nationale (ASN) of Japan.

On December 10, 2004, while the series had been mainly focused on Japanese domestic teams, sponsors and fans, with an ever-rising international fan following and TV coverage shown all over the world it was announced that JGTC would now be called Super GT with the goals of “challenge to the world”, “challenge from the world”, and “challenge to entertainment”.”

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So how does a hybrid car, who’s design is based on the concept of conservation, keep up with the likes of a Lamborghini Gallardo, that’s based on the concept of…well, the exact opposite concept of a Prius?  Easy really; this is a racing series where power is limited.  By keeping power levels regulated, less restrictions are placed on the overall builds of the cars.  This way, you get a variety of chassis’s and engine setups, while still maintaining exciting races.  Also, I suppose the 3.4 liter Formula-Nippon built RV8K, tuned by Ogawa Jidosha, mounted in the rear of the Prius helps out a tiny bit.  Still a hybrid!  In fact, it retains the stock hybrid system.  The entire system remains the same save for an upgraded battery from the larger Alpha Prius.  The engine that the hybrid system assists just happens to not really need any assistance. (haha!)

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Despite these machines being built to throw down in dog fights on track, the attention to aesthetic details is quite unreal.  Notice the white and blue gradient on the back of the wheel spokes?  Cool right!?

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Obviously, the body shares little resemblance to the off-the-shelf type Prius; opting for a functional wide-body instead.  I’ve always been a huge fan of the GT style aero in this series.  Every car looks extremely cool.

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Like the majority of cars competing in Super GT, the Prius is sporting a gigantic, dry carbon rear diffuser.  This piece combined with the GT wing and other aero ensure that downforce is no issue going into high speed corners.  Downforce in a Prius…funny…

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Alright, I somehow managed to fall asleep on the floor between now and writing that last paragraph, so the rest of this might sound a little…off.  よし! Let’s get rolling again!  On track this thing sounds not at all like a Prius, but rather, a torrent of angry wasps.  You can watch a clip here to see for yourself.  The throaty, yet high pitched growl of the Toyota RV8K is pretty awesome.  Being tuned down from it’s original output of over 600hp, the engine maintains it’s beastly sound.

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APR Racing, the team behind the car, also campaigns the Iwasaki Audi R8.  Morio Nitta and Koki Saga make up the drivers team for the Prius, and have been doing a great job so far.  I tried to meet them at Fuji, but I never got a chance to see them, as I’m sure their day was busy.

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Without a doubt, at the opening round this season, the spotlight hopped between the Prius and the BRZ – the two GT300 newcomers.  Now, the excitement continues to grow in the GT300 class with the arrival of the Mugen CR-Z.  So much good stuff in 2012!  Round 7 of Super GT took place this weekend and I can’t wait to find out all the details.  Hope you enjoyed the look at the Prius Super GT car, and maybe you’ve grown to like Super GT just a bit more.  I love to share stuff about this series as it is one of my favorite.  Good luck to the APR team and thanks for visiting!

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