Toyota has entered a specially modified version of its hydrogen fuel cell sedan for the final stage of the 2014 Japanese Rally Championship.The juxtaposition of hydrogen fuel cell technology and stage racing is surely one of the most surprising in the automotive world, and will see the zero-emission Toyota ‘compete’ against rally-prepared examples of the Mitsubishi Evo and Subaru Impreza.
As a symbolic entry, the car reportedly features only light modifications, included improved safety features and stiffer suspension. The most noticeable change to the standard car is in fact the livery, which is lightning bolt themed (not forgetting those blue mud flaps).
The entry has a whiff of last-minute PR ingenuity about it, as the 284 km ‘Shinsiro’ stage held in Toyota’s home Aichi Prefecture commences only this coming weekend. Toyota does, however, have form when it comes to throwing new technology in at the deep end.
In 2002, long before the days of hybrid LMP1 cars and KERS-equipped Formula 1 machines, a humble Prius became the first hybrid to compete in a FIA-sanctioned event when it raced 5,000 miles from Sweden to Jordan, covering more than 40 stages.
Despite ingesting sub-par fuel in Turkey and destroying its front suspension in the Czech Republic, the Group N car finished 14th, proving the reliability of Toyota’s new dual-motor powertrain.
Two years later an updated Prius – all but identical in profile to the car currently on sale – set a land speed record for hybrid cars. In soaring ambient temperatures, the Toyota Motorsport-fettled compact boasting a combined 96 hp was recorded at 130.794 mph on a three-mile course.
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