Hydrogen-powered Toyota reaches petrol horsepower parity
Toyota says the hydrogen engine in its experimental Corolla Sport has achieved power parity with the traditional internal combustion unit it replaces after the car’s third race appearance on Sunday.
The Rookie Racing-run machine was contesting the penultimate round of the Super Taikyu season at Suzuka, following on from its debut in the Fuji 24 Hours and second appearance in the subsequent Autopolis race of the second-tier Japanese sportscar series.
As was the case at Autopolis, driving duties were shared by SUPER GT regulars Takuto Iguchi and Takamitsu Matsui, Masahiro Sasaki and Toyota president Akio Toyoda, racing under his usual ‘Morizo’ pseudonym.
The quartet completed 90 laps at Suzuka to place 42nd of the 45 finishers, 47 laps down on the winning Aston Martin Vantage GT3, after making 11 pitstops. They recorded an average speed of 103.081km/h, a significant improvement on Autopolis (78.715km/h) but also helped by a highly unusual complete lack of safety car periods or full-course yellows.
Toyota took the three-cylinder turbocharged engine from its GR Yaris road car as the basis for its hydrogen challenger, and ahead of the Suzuka race the marque claimed that it had now reached the same power output of 268bhp (272ps) as the original design.
As well as the power increase, a further reduction in the car’s refuelling time to two minutes (down from three minutes at Autopolis) also enabled an improvement in race performance.
Toyota Gazoo Racing president Koji Sato said: “The hydrogen engine we’re using is the same as the one from the GR Yaris, and at Fuji the power output was reduced by more than 10 percent, but this time the power is now at the same level, including the torque.
“Regarding refuelling, by using a dual system we were able to reduce the time needed from four minutes 30 seconds [at Fuji] to two minutes.”
Rookie Racing team boss Tetsuya Kataoka suggested that the straight-line performance of the hydrogen Toyota was now on a rough par with the cars competing in Super Taikyu’s ST-2 class, which includes a conventional petrol-powered GR Yaris.
However, in qualifying the Corolla could only achieve a best time of 2m27.510s in the hands of Sasaki, six seconds slower than the ST-2 benchmark, leaving the car 35th on the grid ahead of only the slowest ST-5 runners. The pole-sitting McLaren 720S GT3 set a best time of 2m02.482s.
"We’ve entered a new phase,” added Sato. “The drivers’ comments used to be mostly about improving our weak points, but now they have changed to higher-level things like, ‘I want to drive with more downforce through 130R’.”
#777 D’station Vantage GT3
Photo by: Kazuya Minakoshi
Taking overall victory at Suzuka was Aston Martin squad D’station Racing, with Satoshi Hoshino, Tomonobu Fujii and Tsubasa Kondo sealing the title in the top ST-X category with one round still remaining in November at Okayama.
It marks a second title for Fujii, who previously won the title in 2016 in a Kondo Racing Nissan, and a first for Hoshino and Kondo.
Additional reporting by Kazuya Minakoshi