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by Tim Beissmann

The 2011 Lexus CT 200h will be launched at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix as Lexus reintroduces a revamped version of the celebrity race following a two-year hiatus.

The Lexus CT 200h Celebrity Challenge will feature 27 of the all-new hybrid hatches racing around the Albert Park circuit in March.

Lexus claims it will be the first hybrid-only race in the world, and coincides with the reintroduction of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) technology to Formula One this year – where braking energy is captured, stored and used later to boost engine power.

Prizes will be awarded to the first celebrity driver to cross the line, as well as the driver who drives the most efficiently – similar to the Le Mans ‘index of efficiency’ concept.

Lexus Australia corporate manager in charge of marketing and aftersales, Peter Evans, said the CT 200h would put a new spin on the celebrity race.

“CT 200h is a fun yet frugal sports luxury hybrid hatch,” Mr Evans said.

“The Celebrity Challenge gives Lexus the ability to demonstrate that hybrids can be fun to drive while still being environmentally conscious.”

The CT 200h has two driving modes – Sport and ECO – but don’t expect it to be a climate crusader out on the track.

Fans of the BBC’s Top Gear may remember a test that pitted a second-generation Toyota Prius against a BMW M3 in a race, with the Prius driving flat out and the M3 simply keeping pace.

After 10 laps of the track, the Prius – with its 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine – was burning fuel at a rate of 16.4 litres/100km, while the 4.0-litre V8-powered M3 used just 14.6 litres/100km.

The CT 200h is powered by a modified version of the third-generation Prius’ Hybrid Synergy Drive system.

The Lexus promises to be more eco-conscious than the Prius, with official Australian tests rating its combined cycle fuel consumption at 3.8 litres/100km and CO2 emissions at 87g/km.

Exact local pricing and specifications are yet to be revealed, but Lexus Australia has confirmed the hybrid hatch will go on sale with a starting price below $50,000 – making it the most inexpensive vehicle to wear the L badge in the country.

The Australian Grand Prix runs from March 24-27 at Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit.




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