Prius Cup, a one-make series that has started in 2007, was held in Toyota's own Chubu region this time. The latest round took place at Suzuka Circuit, where Formula One cars race. How did the event go? Read the following report.
Hello, everyone, I am Yumi Yoshida. I am a "Car Life Essayist" - that is, I write columns and essays about cars. I am writing for GAZOO.com for the first time.
New-model Priuses lined up on the grid.
I am writing to report about the Prius Cup, a one-make race series with Toyota Prius, which definitely is the best selling car in Japan right now.
Prius Cup is very much different from regular race series. First, all the contestants and supporters are from Toyota dealers; all the drivers and mechanics belong to Toyota dealers and are cheered by their coworkers. It is a Toyota meet through and through.
Of the two competition categories, Driving Competition is a competition on fuel efficiency and NOT on speed (although there is a standard lap time that must be kept). It is an eco-driving contest. The other category is Service Competition, where mechanics compete on accuracy and speediness of their car servicing skills. The team that performed the best in these two categories wins.
Each Prius Cup round is held in a different regional division, and this one was a Chubu Division Round. Gathered at the Suzuka Circuit race track, Mie Prefecture, located in Toyota's own Chubu region, were 650 contestants from 51 teams, the largest number of teams ever in the series. The world-famous Suzuka track has just been freshly renovated in preparation of Formula One Japan Grand Prix scheduled in October. At the sight of the gorgeous track with brand-new looking pits, contestants looked exhilarated. I can understand it - who would not be thrilled to get to drive on a World Grand Prix track?
Teams from forty-seven dealers, the largest number ever in the series, gathered at the Suzuka Circuit.
A contestant taking the oath at the opening ceremony. Everybody is getting into high spirits!
Of the contesting teams, I chose to report about Netz Nagano Team Whoopees. On the team are three women who write blogs for GAZOO.com, and they were scheduled to enter the Driving Competition.
As part of the Service Competition, "Pre-start Inspection", "Failure Investigation" and "Component Removal/Installation" are performed, competing on accuracy and speediness.
The contest commenced with Service Competition performance. Three men on the Whoopees team started to work on the assigned Prius, taking charge of the front, the passenger cabin and the rear of the car respectively. They quickly completed the tasks of "Pre-start Inspection", "Failure Investigation" and "Component Removal/Installation", sometimes working quietly and sometimes briskly calling out to each other. After the performance, however, the crew looked unhappy. When I asked for the reason, they answered that they "could not perform as well as they aimed to". Trying to shake the negative mood off, however, the three men then cheerfully pledged that they would do their very best in the remaining half of the Service Competition, that comprises tire position changes and other service tasks performed during the Driving Competition.
Driving Competition commences. Everybody starting with a thoroughly planned strategy, for the highest fuel efficiency ever!
Driving Competition started next. I expected that an all-women team like the Whoopees has a very good chance in the competition because the lighter the payload is, the better the fuel efficiency will be (and women usually weigh lighter than men) and women generally accelerate more carefully than men Once they get the hang of it, they could produce an excellent result .... and they did! The Whoopees girls scored a remarkable 26.10 km/liter.
It is only natural that women can be very successful in competitive eco-driving. What makes difference in it is the driver's thinking power and NOT physical strength, where gender differences do not matter at all. Furthermore, competitive eco-driving is a safe, unaggressive sport and therefore suitable for women. It is run on race tracks but it is NOT a competition on speed.
And how did our professional racers on the GAZOO Racing team do, while they usually compete for speed only? Just as expected, racers Juichi Wakisaka, Akira Iida and Takayuki Kinoshita performed professionally in eco-driving as well, scoring a fairly good 25.82 km/liter. And how about our other GAZOO Racing team, consisting of Tom's Chairman Tachi and President Oiwa plus the GAZOO lady? Well, maybe they could have done better, is all I can say!
Tom's Chairman Tachi and President Oiwa.
The pair going over eco-driving keypoints before the race starts.
Iida, Wakisaka, and Kinoshita, the racing driver team.
Racers are racers! The guys cannot help getting serious once the race starts.
Contestants driving smoothly on the track. Got the fuel efficiency they wanted?
The Suzuka round ended with a clear-cut victory of Aichi Toyota Team AT1935, achieving a full score in both the Service and the Driving Competitions. According to the team, the secret to their victory was "dieting that has knocked off a total of 15 kg among the three drivers". To show a firm determination, all of the three drivers had their heads clean-shaved before the race (this has probably contributed to weight reduction as well!). Apparently their effort paid.
The "Best Individual Fuel Efficiency Award" went to a person who scored 31.90 km/liter. Many other special prizes were awarded to add to the fun, including the "Best Cheerer's Award" for supporters that cheered their team in a most amusing and delightful way. Looking back, everybody who came to the track on that day seemed to be having a very good time. Competition on speed is OK, but events like the Prius Cup can be called a "next generation race" where everyone can take part and have fun.
(Text by Yumi Yoshida)
Ranking will be determined based on the sum of Service Competition points (max. 50 points) and Driving Competition points (max. 50 points).
Three mechanics perform the tasks of Service Competition 1 and 2. Ranking will be determined based on the accuracy and speediness of service.
Service Competition points will be calculated according to the ranking based on Service Competition 1 and Service Competition 2 scores.
■ Service Competition 1
Pre-start inspection of the vehicle before the Driving Competition (daily inspection + α), failure investigation, component removal/installation.
■ Service Competition 2
Inspection of various parts of the vehicle and also a change of tire positions during the two driver-change pit stops in Driving Competition.
＜4 to 7 minutes＞
One team comprises three drivers, running the specified number of laps.
Driving Competition points will be determined based on the average fuel efficiency of three drivers.
Violation of the regulations given by the Competition Committee will be subject to penalty (point reduction).