AS FAR AS NASCAR pace cars go, the Toyota Hybrid Camry would seem to be an unlikely candidate for the job.
The Camry nameplate isn't exactly one that's storied in motorsport history and people usually associate hybrids with fuel-sipping thrift, not fast-paced sprints.
But that perception may change. Toyota has decided to throw its tree-hugging Hybrid Camry right into the most red-blooded forms of motorsport: NASCAR.
The Hybrid Camry will do duty as the official pace car at six NASCAR races this season, with its first appearance scheduled for May 24 in North Carolina.
While it may not be the sportiest of pace cars, the Hybrid Camry passed NASCAR's performance requirements, which included being able to sprint to 160km/h within 400 metres from a standstill.
The Hybrid Camry pace car will use the exact same 2.4 litre petrol engine and electric motor drivetrain that will be offered in the locally-produced Australian version, which is set to go on sale here early next year.
Part of the reason why it's able to meet NASCAR's pace car standards is the torque offered by its electric assistance motor, which gets the mid-size sedan off the line with surprising rapidity.
"It's a tribute to the torque and other performance characteristics of the Hybrid Camry that allows it to meet NASCAR's requirements for pacing the longest race of the season," Ed Laukes, Corporate Manager for motor sports marketing at Toyota Motor Sales USA said.
"There are misconceptions about hybrid technology among the public that we're trying to erase," he said.
"This is a way for us to demonstrate the hybrid used on the track is the exact same car you can buy in a showroom."