The "Prius Cup" was held at a race track in Hokkaido on August 20th, 2008.
This is a race in which participants compete not in speed but in "correctness of service" and "fuel consumption." A writer Ayaka Shiomura participated in this event and reported what she felt.
The "Prius Cup" is a one-make race of eco-cars, machines starting at ease. A GAZOO lady sees them off one by one at three seconds intervals with waving the flag. Yes, there is nothing to be afraid of this method.
The signal turns green, all the machines dash into the first turn together, and they navigate the corner with squealing rubber (or making rubber cry?). You associate car race with such a series of scenes, don’t you? I’m actually interested in such racing, too, so my precious car is the Toyota Vitz for one-make car races (!) Nevertheless, sports driving will be scary for the beginners of car racing.In this event, however, participants do not compete in aggressive driving on the race track. So, even I was able to enjoy this event at ease. So, this event gave a lot of fun to me, a woman with no experience of car race.
Total three drivers entered this time from Team GAZOO; Shiomura (the reporter), Mr. Osaka nicknamed "top-gun" who is one of proficient test drivers of Toyota, and a GAZOO lady. The race organizer exempted our team from the "service competition" in which participants compete in their skills of service because we had no mechanics. Instead, he made us start from the line end.
»About rules of service competition
Nonetheless, there was no need to be nervous!
The rules say, "It is OK that lap time is within five under or over a pre-determined "standard time." So, I was able to concentrate on my driving without minding the grid and standings.
Rules were explained in the meeting of coaches and drivers before starting the race. I think battle starts from here (!?)
In the Prius Cup, each team competes in not only driving but also skills of mechanics.
Race cars made us entertain by their "Hokkaidoish" coloring.
It was difficult for me to know my pace just after starting the race. Besides, I was kind of irritated, thinking, "The vehicle in front of me is too slow, isn’t it? Everyone seems to drive with fuel consumption in mind, but I might take a penalty of overrun of the standard time..."
Then, there appeared a direction of "raise the pace" on the signboard at the pit. It was as I expected! I turned on the right blinker soon to send a sign of overtaking to the car in front of my machine. I confirmed a sign of OK from the left blinker, and passed the car. This was one of the local rules of the Prius Cup. If overtaking this way, you have no risk of contact, so you can be at ease, can’t you? Accordingly, I was able to drive as thinking about lane selection and acceleration/deceleration effective for fuel consumption.
»About rules of driving competition
A right arrow was displayed on the signboard after that. This meant a nice pace. It was OK to keep the pace as it was! Since raising engine rotation too much is not good for fuel consumption, I raised speed up to 110 km/h on straight-ways by gradually stamping on the accelerator, and reduced speed on turns by stamping on the brake in the same way. (I believe)
I drove keeping fuel consumption in mind so that waste can be avoided as much as possible.
The Prius displays fuel consumption on the monitor screen of the car navigation system. So, you will recognize like, "This driving leads to good fuel consumption," when the numerical value has become higher even a bit, and you will also be able to drive as keeping the good feeling.
There showed a racing car of the Lexus IS, making an exciting exhaust note even in the demonstrative driving.
At long last, the driving competition was starting. I got a bit nervous.
How was my record? It was 20.1 km/l in spite of driving on a race track.
This was not bad, huh? (You don’t think so?) But the team’s average fuel consumption was 19.4 km/l, and this was second to last. (cry)
For your information, the best fuel consumption of the day was 26.1 km/l. It was great that a competitor resulted in making as much as 6.0 km/l of difference in spite of driving together with us. I want them to tell us what on earth technique they used!
Anyway, I felt, "this was very fun," after the event was completed. This was just a routine expression, but I had no other words to describe it.
Homemakers are usually alien to the word, car race. But, I felt that even they can participate in the Prius Cup at ease. Because fuel consumption is competed in, drivers can navigate machines without minding battles during high-speed driving. On the other hand, they are allowed to speed decently on straight-ways, so the atmosphere of car race can be felt enough. I thought that even women can enjoy this race because automatic-transmission cars can enter, and more than anything this is a great merit of this race.
The Vitz Turbo MN appeared on the scene as a pace-making car!!
Driver’s ability is shown as it is because this is a competition of the same car.
I wish to enter again as a member of Team GAZOO! This was a joyful event that I thought so with a serious mind.
(Reported by Ayaka Shiomura)