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Tue., Feb. 24, 2009, 2:11 p.m.

Prius Cup: Amazingly boring

Have you heard the one about the Prius Cup? Yeah, the one where a bunch of Toyota dealerships enter their Prius’ in low-speed races to see who can suckle the best gas mileage out of their car? 

Actually, the Prius Cup is no joke. Japanese Toyota dealers have been participating in it since 2007 to promote the little car’s incredible gas mileage and further familiarize their sales peoples' understanding of it by putting them to work in the pits. The sixth running of the race in December drew 22 dealer teams from Central Japan. The last winner in Gamagori racked up a prudent 69.3 mpg over 20 mind-numbing laps. 

Impressive to think about, to watch, not so much.

The winners are determined by a combination of service and race scores. Drivers are penalized for going too fast or too slow while they obsess over the fuel burn numbers on the Prius’ mid-console monitor. Instead of executing sling shot maneuvers, they accelerate slowly after the green flag and pit stops to keep the electric motor in operation as much as possible. When they do eventually wisp silently by their crew a team manager will signal them with a card if they need to slow down or if the amount of fuel they’re consuming has reached an unacceptable level.

Basically it’s like watching a teenage driver with an anxiety disorder being berated by an overbearing parent about the cost of fuel, yet for some reason knowing that they're squeezing close to 70 mpg out of the whole petrol-sipping ordeal makes it acceptable entertainment. 

Toyota says that from their internal testing the soon to be released 2010 Prius promoted by the Prius Cup is putting up 50mpg, a four-gallon increase from the 46mpg of the last model. How much more boring will the Prius Cup get in the years to come? For the sake of fuel economy let’s hope it’s bad enough to make a milk cow want to kill itself.




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