Thirty-seven-year-old Jari-Matti Latvala has been called as a member of a lineup of six drivers who will participate in the Super Taikyu event on June 4-5 at the wheel of a GR Corolla H2 Concept.
The Finn will share the cockpit of the car with Toyota president Aiko Toyoda (registered under his usual pseudonym “Morizo”), SUPER GT regulars Hiroaki Ishiura, Masahiro Sasaki, Yasuhiro Ogura and another figure from the rally world, the Japanese champion Norihiko Katsuta (father of current Toyota WRC driver Takamoto).
Despite a lack of track racing experience, Latvala said he wanted to test the hydrogen car made by Toyota for himself after hearing about it from Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe colleagues Kamui Kobayashi, who drove the car on its debut in the 24 Hours of Fuji last year, and Kazuki Nakajima.
“When I saw live video of a 24-hour Super Taikyu at Fuji during last year’s Rally Portugal, I thought Toyota’s new approach to carbon neutrality was just extraordinary,” said Latvala, who in he previously participated in the 2010 Nurburgring 24 Hours at the wheel of a Ford Focus RS.
“I agree that the sound is one of the best parts of motorsport. And I heard from Kamui Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima that the driving feel is the same as that of a petrol-engined car. I was very interested in the their feedback, so I wanted to check it out for myself and I will have a chance to drive this car. “
“Having experienced carbon neutrality activities firsthand, I would like to share them with the world, especially in Europe. And I want to test the potential of this technology for rally cars. I am happy to be able to come to Japan before the Rally. Japan this year “.
Toyota has been working to improve the performance of the GR Corolla H2 Concept – which uses an internal combustion engine instead of fuel cells – since its debut 12 months ago, increasing both the power output and the time it takes to refuel the hydrogen tanks. .
Last year the brand said it had achieved power parity with the petrol engine of the GR Yaris, on which the hydrogen-powered unit is based, while refueling time was reduced from the 4 minutes and 30 seconds of the debut in just 1 minute and 30 seconds.
In the last Super Taikyu race, the five-hour opening of the season held at Suzuka in March, the Corolla finished in 43rd place overall and completed a total of 97 laps in the hands of Sasaki, Toyoda, Ishiura and Ogura, finishing 35 laps behind Team Daishin’s Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 winner.
Sasaki set the car’s best qualifying lap in 2’26”012s, about 26 ” from the pace of the best GT3 ST-X class racers, but ahead of all ST-5 class cars.
The Rookie Racing has a second car in the ST-Q class for machines that do not comply with any specific technical regulations, a new generation GR86 that uses synthetic fuel derived from biomass.
SUPER GT champion Yuhi Sekiguchi has been added to the driver lineup, along with Kazuya Oshima, Naoya Gamou, Daisuke Toyoda (son of Akio) and Ryuta Ukai.
At Suzuka, the car finished 28th overall, 17 laps behind the winning Nissan, with a best qualifying time of 2’19”620 thanks to regular Mercedes SUPER GT driver Gamou, almost on par with the best competitors of the ST-2 class.