Since it was launched in 2010, Honda has tried to convince the world that its CR-Z hybrid hatchback is both green and sporty. That argument will be much easier to make when the CR-Z debuts in the Japanese Super GT Series later this year.
“Honda will start competition with a CR-Z equipped with a racing hybrid system, supporting the racing activities of Team Mugen through a joint project with M-TEC Co., Ltd.,” according to a press release sent out February 3. Mugen is a well-known maker of aftermarket performance parts, specifically for Hondas.
The Super GT Series is a race series for production-based cars, and is divided into two classes: GT500 and GT300. The faster cars, such as the Nissan GT-R and Honda HSV-010 GT (a repurposed Acura NSX prototype) race in GT500. The CR-Z will race in GT300, competing against the Subaru BRZ and even a Toyota Prius.
Official photos of the CR-Z racer have not been released, but the above rendering from the Japanese website Auto Sport gives a good approximation of what it will look like. While it is based on a production car, the racer is far from stock. The fenders will be widened to accommodate bigger wheels and tires, and various ducts and spoilers will be added to improve aerodynamics.
Although the only part of the stock car’s looks that will be preserved is the roofline, the CR-Z Super GT still has more in common with the car’s customers drive than a NASCAR. Unlike a NASCAR stock car, it retains the stock powertrain layout; it will still be a front-wheel-drive hybrid competing with purpose-built sports cars.
Honda is probably hoping that the old adage “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” applies to the CR-Z. The car was supposed to combine the sportiness of the CR-X hatchback, the fuel efficiency of the original Insight hybrid, and quirkiness of both. The result is a car that is kind of sporty and kind of fuel efficient, but that does not excel at either. It can’t really compete with the smaller Mini Cooper in terms of driving fun, and only gets 35 city and 39 highway mpg, less than Honda’s own Civic hybrid, which carries the weight of two more doors.
Making a sporty hybrid is tough, though. It is hard to keep a car light and nimble when it’s carrying a gasoline engine, an electric motor, and batteries. If the CR-Z is successful in Super GT, it will give itself and hybrids in general some much-needed performance credibility. It will only be racing in Japan, but Honda might want to think about putting some videos of the CR-Z’s performances online, or bringing it across the Pacific to display at an auto show.