Realizing that there is little that they can do about the surrounding situation, Toyota has turned their attention to the one area directly under their control as a race car developer – the track.
The car they have chosen to put on the track is radical departure from traditional race car design. That car is the Toyota Supra HV-R.
With a 473 horsepower V8 engine and a platform based on the Supra GT race car that was extremely successful in Japanese Super GT racing, at first glance the HV-R might seem identical to its other GT1 class competitors.
But peel back the skin and the hybrid system that sets this Supra apart from all the others is revealed. With a four wheel drive system that regenerates energy from braking, the Supra HV-R has a small motor in each front wheel and a third motor on the rear axle.
In a unique design, Toyota does not use rechargeable cells but stores the electrical energy in a large capacitor, allowing for a much faster charge and discharge cycle. Altogether these electrical motors add 227 horsepower to the package, bringing the total useable horsepower of the Supra HV-R to a very healthy 700.
Combined with the ultra-low vehicle weight of 2376 pounds, the Supra HV-R has been able to trounce the competition, winning the Tokashi 24-Hour race in 2007.
While non-traditional racing power sources have been making some noise in the last few years, such as Audi’s success with their R8 diesel platform, hybrid race cars are still something of a novelty.
As with Audi, Toyota has approached this form of alternative racing power with an eye towards testing out new technologies on the track in order to apply them to the street.
It might be strange to think of the sleek Supra HV-R as a test bed for the meek, economy-oriented Toyota Prius, but as it zooms around the race circuit it is providing valuable data that will help Toyota make all of their hybrids more fuel efficient, cheaper – and maybe a little bit faster.