The New Toyota Prius PHEV Is Getting Its Own Racing Series. Here's What We Know About It – The Autopian

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Since the fifth-generation Toyota Prius debuted in 2022, there have been more than a few murmurs of it getting the motorsports treatment that it deserves. I drove the glowed-up Prius and Prius PHEVs on their North American media launches and was shocked at how fun each was to drive. It also looks quite good to boot, so why wouldn’t one want to race it?
Turns out, Toyota’s Gazoo Racing division—its motorsports arm—has developed what’s called the Prius PHEV Class, a spec class that’s set to run half a dozen events in Korea this year. That’s right, by the looks of things so far, it looks like it’s only going down in Korea.
Let’s see what we can figure out about this Very Brilliant Idea, and discuss its potential positives and negatives. And, hope that it expands to other markets.

To get one thing out of the way: While the first posts I found went up early this month, I doubt this is a late April Fools Joke, or even an April Fools Joke Part Two, if that’s a thing. The above video’s gotten quite a lot of views and it looks like Toyota Gazoo Racing Korea’s (TGRK) Instagram has a handful of posts covering it.
It looks like the first and second rounds are happening on the 20th and 21st of this month at Everland Speedway in the Gyeonggi-do Province of Korea in conjunction with the O-NE Super Race Championship, hosted by the Korea Automobile Racing Association. Think of KARA as the IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) of Korea; it’s an FIA-recognized sanctioning body that hosts a bunch of different forms of motorsport.
Some further investigation reveals this press release, which details that TGRK will run the Prius PHEV Class for three whole seasons and comprise 18 drivers. Otherwise, as of this writing, there isn’t anything on TGRK’s website (or Gazoo Racing’s main website) to lay out more in terms of the car’s specs, safety equipment, tire brand, etc.
I’m betting it’ll run as a short sprint race that lasts no more than 45 minutes. Then, examining various photos carefully, the following might make up the series’ rulebook: Nexen NFera SUR4G tires, basic rollover protection, some kind of forged racing wheel (possibly Rays? I’m a little rusty in this department), and, well, not a whole lot else. The photos so far show just a rear-seat roll bar for added safety and the factory seat, but hopefully safety equipment is far more decked out than that, such as a proper roll cage, racing seat, harnesses, fire suppression, nets, the works. It may be a lower-horsepower platform, but door-to-door racing is still plenty dangerous.
At this time, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next weekend when rounds one and two happen. Hopefully there will be some good media coverage, as well as more specifics about the car itself, who the racers are, and above all: What kind of action that 220-ish horsepower plug-in hybrids can get into. I bet it’ll be a real riot to watch, and who knows, the Prius PHEV Class could reach other markets, too.
What do you think about this new Prius-based spec racing class? Would you watch it?
Do these come with paddle shifters? Call me a luddite but I just don’t see as much skill without shifting.
I’d watch the heck out of this, at least for a few races. Racing is a serious crucible for powertrain development; there’s every reason for this to be as true for electrically-motivated vehicles as well. If it gives Prius development a shot in the arm, there’s no downside to that. You want quick, stylish and 60 miles per gallon? Saddle up.
Honestly, they need to come out with a full BEV prius. I’d be way more interested in a full electric prius race class.
I’m feeling like I missed out. That race track is about halfway between where I lived and where I worked when I was in South Korea in 2010-2013. Maybe it didn’t exist then… Anyway, Everland is (or at least was) the holding company (probably for tax purposes) for Samsung Corporation. China even copied the name: Evergrande (RIP). It is late and I can blather on with loads of uninteresting information.
In addition to the Prius GT300 mentioned in the comments above, there’s also…
this factory-backed Gen 1 rally car from 2002: https://media.toyota.co.uk/toyota-prius-to-make-motor-sport-history/
this factory-backed Gen 2 track car from 2004 https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a15132843/toyota-prius-race-car-car-news/
this factory-backed Gen 2 Bonneville Salt Flats record setter from 2004 https://autos.yahoo.com/toyota-crushing-fastest-prius-report-133000991.html
this factory-backed Gen 4 track car from 2016 https://www.topspeed.com/cars/toyota/2016-toyota-prius-g/
this after-hours factory-assisted Gen 4 rally car from 2021 https://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/a36555130/toyota-prius-awd-rally-car-drive/
And who knows how many countless more. Toyota’s been toying with efficient speed for decades, and the world is a better place for it. 
If this does halfway okay, there will spawn an aftermarket for this car.
A racer aftermarket for a prius! IMO that can open up the car to a whole new audience and even more sales and just some fun for everyday people cruising into the office.
Fingers crossed
I probably wouldn’t watch these races, but I would definitely watch the youtube highlights.
Oh hell yeah. If they’re going to try to make the Prius cool, they need to race it. Even if the Prius wasn’t cool, they need to race it. What I’m saying is that this has been the stuff of Stef’s Brainworms forever and I’m so glad that Toyota’s finally doing it. Just bring it here!!!
For those who didn’t already know, search “Prius GT300” 🙂
those Super GT cars were the best Prii ever
Now they are race cars. That means we can drive a Prius and brag about it.
I would watch it. Properly done, spec racing is about driver skill. It also generally means that the cars are relatively close to what I can buy, rather than a 6-figure chassis topped by a body that somewhat resembles what is found on the showroom floor
up until recently here in Canada we had a spec series for the tiny little Nissan Micras. You bought them fully prepared. They were affordable and great fun to watch or drive. They went 10/10 at all times with some great driving.
This is awesome! These are my favorite types of race series. I love seeing little guys being flogged at 10/10ths. Probably why I was so happy that Mighty Car Mods did a 24 hour K-car race last year
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XBXfuOrmCs
I just wish that the Prius plug in had optional AWD-e.
If I’m stuck with FWD I want the most simple rear suspension setup one can get, which the current Prius lacks.
The most simple rear suspension…… Meaning a trailer axle on leaf springs?
I don’t really understand why you want the most simple rear suspension possible.
One could argue that coil springs are simpler, but for my purposes they’re largely interchangeable.
Simple things have less maintenance points, and with that less things to maintain and less things to break.
A beam axle is plenty enough for my purposes provided it is built to be durable enough.
It’s one of the things I love most about FWD drivetrains, while the front is filled to the brim with complexity, by the necessity of having the front wheels steer there is a certain amount of complexity necessary to have the front wheels steer, and by figuring out how to get the front wheels to both steer and drive it allows you to make everything behind the front wheels amount to a non-articulated trailer.
Trailers can be simple, lightweight, and very durable.
I can understand the simplicity, durability, longevity, and maintenance concerns, but my experience suggests that it’s not really something to worry about.
I have a 92 Accord with double wishbone rear suspension, with 280k miles, and as far as I can tell it is 100% original except for the shocks. And there are no greasable joints or anything, it requires literally 0 maintenance.
This is by no means an unusual thing: I have several other cars in a similar situation, and I’ve seen lots like it. The fact is, most FWD cars, including ones with a more complicated rear suspension, have the suspension last the entire life of the car with literally 0 maintenance or repairs except for shocks, and not even always that.
I’m sure(ish) a super simple beam axle would last longer, but there’s no point in having the rear suspension significantly outlast the rest of the car. Meaning rear suspension design just comes down to an engineering cost vs benefit decision.
Is this different from your experience? Are you used to having issues with rear suspension?
I’m glad it has worked for you so far.
I generally do and prefer to live in dry climates, and in dry climates the rubber bits are usually the first to fail, rubber bushings are usually the first to go of the rubber bits, whereas in a more humid climate they don’t go nearly as quickly, but the rest of the car goes much more quickly due to rust.
The life of the car is relative to the life the car lives, many cars greatly outlive the automakers planned lifespan for the car.
For me in general I much prefer simple over complex, even if complex can result in better quality of life when it is working.
In general my experience with machines is as follows:
Machines yearn to return to their base parts.
Liquids yearn to escape their vessels.
Screws are really only useful for things that one tightens and loosens regularly, as they unscrew regularly, and in time the screws stretch, and for many vital things that need to be screwed in, it’s all too easy to cross-thread them.
The smaller the part, the more likely you are to lose it, and the less likely you are to bodge a fix if necessary.
Electricity is spicy magic, and it doesn’t like being contained.
Aluminum stress fractures without warning.
You mileage may vary, but with the miles I’ve logged I’m truly sick of stuff falling apart into tons of little pieces, springing leaks, screws unscrewing/stretching/getting cross-threaded, the parts being lost and or unrepairable. electrical gremlins/dead batteries, and sudden failure of aluminum due to stress fractures.
For me a big advantage of FWD is simple rear suspension, if I’m stuck with a complex independent suspension setup for a FWD automobile I’d rather go with an AWD or 4WD automobile.
So, if you can’t have a diesel, manual Citation (complete with wind-up starter and semaphores, naturally) with cable-operated brakes, you’d just as soon have a Subaru?
-just picking’ 😉
No, the bit about Subaru was that I forgot that they too made FWD based 4WD vehicles, and Subaru is not a European automaker.
I have particular preferences, though generally speaking I prefer simple, reliable, durable vehicles with minimal reliance on batteries, electricity, fluids, etc.
Most likely long term I’ll move somewhere where I can get around via a small boat (in fresh water) and walking. It doesn’t get much simpler motor vehicle wise than an outboard on a small boat and bipedal locomotion.
Lets see energy economy count for just as much as being first across the finish line. The winner has the highest combination of first over the line with most energy left in the tank and battery.
I think there will already be an energy economy factor. A Prius Prime has 39-44mi of range in street driving, with close to 100% regenerative braking.
Based on an onboard video of a 4-cylinder Hyundai Tiburon, which achieved a slightly under 1:40 laptime around the high speed 2.8mi full circuit config, a rough estimate of the average speed is 100mph. In a fantasy scenario where the EPA efficiency translates over to racing, the battery will last around 25 minutes.
After doing some math based on C&D’s test numbers, I estimated that the Prius Prime is capable of 0.91g of braking force on stock tires, and the regenerative braking is capable of maximum ~0.13g when around 50-70mph, which is around 15% energy recovery at those speeds (which will worsen with higher speed and better tires).
Drivers who can maximize regenerative braking and thus extend their battery life farther into the race will be rewarded with having a combined 220hp for longer, compared to competitors who drain their batteries and will only have 150hp.
Well I was thinking more about the metrics of time, consumed fuel and battery charge. Those should be pretty easy to measure real time thanks to all the computers and sensors. Those stats might even be broadcast real time for the fans at home to follow along with.
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