Camry Hybrid tops class in One Lap of America
Three Camrys entered legendary rally to dispell "vanilla" misconceptionsJoe Duarte
Published: May 14, 2018, 2:30 AM
Updated: May 18, 2018, 2:21 AM
One of the main criticisms levelled at the Toyota Camry over the years is that it’s “plain vanilla,” meaning it’s versatile and appeals to pretty much all tastes, but it’s not very exciting. And consumers are lapping it up, putting it at the top of the sales lists every year for the past 16.
In recent years, Toyota has attempted to make the design more exciting and improved its performance and handling, but critics are still not appeased and often voice that opinion.
So in an attempt to dispel misconceptions, the company entered one of the most epic rallies in history — the legendary Cannonball Run, or One Lap of America (as it has come to be known). The contingent was made up of three teams, made up of engineers from Toyota’s US manufacturing plants (Indiana, West Virginia and Georgetown, Kentucky), running a Camry XSE, Camry SE and Camry Hybrid.
“We were doing track testing with the Camry Hybrid,” said Toyota Indiana engineer James Nichols. “It was met with humor by other drivers in the paddock, but, when we started passing cars on the track, the atmosphere changed.”
The 2018 Tire Rack One Lap of America was run last week, covering 5,914 between racetracks, where the cars put down fast laps. Cars must remain street legal, since pretty much the entire distance is run on public roads, and they can only use one set of tires (hence the sponsorship from Tire Rack).
This year’s event started and ended in South Bend, Indiana, and visited Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois, Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis, Hallett Motor Racing (Tulsa, Oklahoma), High Plains Raceway in Denver, Motorsports Ranch (Ft. Worth, Texas), NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans, and the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
“We truly believe that lessons we learn on the track in vehicle performance, safety, problem-solving and teamwork make us better engineers,” said Toyota senior engineering manager Brandon Barach.
This is the fourth entry in the rally for the team representing Georgetown, with its best finish being second in the Sports GT Small Bore class in 2016 with a Toyota 86.
This year, the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid driven by James Nichols, Andy Grayson & Grace Cox (a first-time entrant) finished 53rd overall, earning top honours in the Alternative Fuel category.