[Through the Finder] #5 Round 4 in Autopolis Expands Technology Options for Producing Green Hydrogen


Producing green hydrogen for local consumption

ROOKIE Racing debuted its “hydrogen-powered Corolla”, the ORC ROOKIE Corolla H2 concept, in Round 3 at the Fuji Speedway 24-hour race. In the next round of the 2021 Super Taikyu Series, the #32 hydrogen-powered Corolla and the #28 ORC ROOKIE Racing GR Supra again competed side by side at Autopolis in Oita, Kyushu. Noriaki Mitsuhashi, the photographer who has set out to capture every detail of ROOKIE Racing’s journey, described the key theme at Autopolis.

“The hydrogen-powered Corolla’s previous race entry was seen as symbolically embodying Morizo’s idea of ‘purposeful passion and action’. The team has clearly entered a new phase in their efforts to make ever-better cars and achieve carbon neutrality, and I could sense the ripple effects starting to radiate outwards.”

Whereas in the third round at Fuji the car used green hydrogen produced in Namie, Fukushima, for this race half of the fuel was produced in Kyushu. Toyota Motor Kyushu supplied hydrogen produced with solar power at its plant in Miyawaka, Fukuoka. The challenge was also supported by Obayashi Corporation, which provided hydrogen from the geothermally-powered production plant the company had built in the Oita town of Kokonoe, creating an ecosystem of locally generated energy for local consumption.

“The #32 hydrogen engine Corolla encountered injector trouble during the first run on Friday morning and the team ended up having to replace the engine, but it was actually at this point that I got the shot of Morizo’s beaming smile. That expression seemed to convey his expectations for the weekend, as every person on site moved instinctively, making rapid, independent decisions from the moment the issue was discovered until it was resolved.”

Mitsuhashi also explained how the race reinforced his perceptions.

“Race day began with rain, but thanks to the teru teru bozu (rain charms) handmade by ROOKIE Racing staff, the weather cleared to reveal blue skies midway through. Even after the weather improved, however, conditions were challenging as the road remained wet in some sections. With his cool suit hose coming off as well, Morizo shouldered a lot in this race. I think that’s precisely why his determination to push hydrogen-powered engines into the future through ROOKIE Racing is beginning to reach beyond the team’s staff and corporate partners to the general public, as many new like-minded partners embrace the message. In the final shot, which captures the Corolla through the pit board, I tried to express the future that awaits the hydrogen-powered engine.”

2021 Super Taikyu Series Round 4 Autopolis, as captured by Noriaki Mitsuhashi


Super Taikyu Round 4 was held at Autopolis, an undulating mountainside course located on Mount Aso’s outer ring, with an elevation difference of 55m.


Following on from the Fuji 24-hour race, ROOKIE Racing again fielded two cars, the GR Supra and the hydrogen-powered Corolla.

With a view to expanding energy options, this time the Corolla was fueled by locally-produced green hydrogen, supplied by Obayashi Corporation and Toyota Motor Kyushu, in addition to Namie, Fukushima (FH2R).

Mechanics use the free practice session to rapidly address any trouble in the name of kaizen


Driver Masahiro Sasaki returns to the pits after sensing trouble with the car during Friday’s practice. The symptoms: the engine would not fire above a certain RPM.


Mechanics immediately begin to investigate the cause, checking the ECU, plugs, injectors, and any other part that might be faulty.


Because the ST-Q class is home to manufacturer prototypes, the machines come with complex structures. The team opts for the most time-consuming solution – an engine replacement – a decision that will allow them to pin down the cause and contribute to further kaizen.


Morizo watches over proceedings as the mechanics begin to replace the engine.
As the team’s father figure, he kept a kindly eye over the family’s efforts.


“Any trouble we encounter only make us stronger”
“The motorsports time frame spurs kaizen at unprecedented speeds”
“The car will keep getting ever-better”

Morizo was all smiles while waiting for the machine’s problem to be fixed.

Target time smashed in qualifying round


Early on Saturday morning, Morizo makes an appearance at the Autopolis event space, taking the time to walk around the booths to see and hear the exhibitors for himself.


A pleased “petrolhead Morizo” behind the wheel of the FC-PIUS. The FC-PIUS, a kit car running on the same mechanics as the Mirai FCEV, was set up for children to test-drive at the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing Park.


On his way out of the event space, Morizo is stopped by an excited young fan who ran from the FC-PIUS to ask for an autograph. Bending down to see the boy’s face, a smiling Morizo asks, “What's your name?” “Do you like cars?”

Handwritten on the boy’s paper: “To Ryuta, Thank you. Akio Toyoda & Morizo”


A press conference is held for the media ahead of the qualifying round.

“We need to get more people on our side working towards carbon neutrality”
“We need to properly understand carbon neutrality”
“We need to ensure that we take the right path to achieving carbon neutrality”
“Our enemy in pursuing carbon neutrality is carbon”
“It certainly is not the internal combustion engine”

Akio shared his thoughts as President of Toyota Motor Corporation, Chairman of JAMA, and the petrolhead Morizo.


The press conference was also attended by ROOKIE Racing’s team manager and drivers, who offered a professional perspective on the significance of racing with a hydrogen-powered engine.


1:35 p.m. – official qualifying begins
Serving as the team’s lead driver is Kyushu local Takuto Iguchi (from Yanagawa, Fukuoka)


Exceptional consistency and speed help B driver Masahiro Sasaki set a time of 2 minutes 9.992 seconds


Just before his turn, C driver Morizo conducts final checks of track conditions, lines, and machine control with Sasaki, who finished his run earlier


The eyes of master driver Morizo


On board the machine, Morizo gives a thumbs up before focusing his concentration on the course ahead


Morizo shares high fives with his teammates upon returning to the pits with a goal-smashing time of 2 minutes 13.049 seconds


Morizo is greeted by Daisuke Toyoda.
“So close.”
The pairs' fingertips speak of Morizo’s regret at missing the 2:12 mark.
Father and son share the same “sensor” that constantly seeks to do better.

Hydrogen-powered Corolla completes 85 laps in trouble-free race


Race day morning, Autopolis is shrouded in rain and fog


Teru teru bozu charms hang inside the ROOKIE Racing tent


Wishes for a safe race, handmade by ROOKIE Racing staff


The rain has stopped, but the track remains wet as the two ROOKIE Racing cars head towards the grid


ROOKIE Racing team members gather around the GR Supra on the grid just before the race starts


200 ROOKIE Racing fans came out to support the team from a section of the Autopolis main stand set up just for them


11:03 a.m. – the five-hour endurance race begins


However, with the race just getting underway, clouds cover the entire circuit. Amid deteriorating visibility, the safety car is called out after only two laps.


Following a brief restart, the race is soon taken over by the safety car once more.
On lap 12, organizers decide that the weather is unlikely to improve soon, so a red flag brings the race to a temporary stop.


After a one-hour interruption, the race resumes at 0:45 p.m.
Soon after restart, Iguchi brings the car in for its first refuel.


A large group of fans watches over the team at the hydrogen refueling station


A banner displayed at the hydrogen refueling station (that says “Fight, ROOKIE Racing! Fight, hydrogen-powered engine!”)


The hydrogen-powered Corolla underwent various kaizen ahead of the Autopolis race.
Revisions to the engine’s combustion boosted torque by 15% and improved gas pedal response. The chassis is 40kg lighter, while increased hydrogen flow cut refueling time by 40 percent.
All these improvements were made over just two months following the previous Fuji race, a rapid time frame only possible in motorsports.


With the baton having passed from Iguchi to Morizo, Sasaki, then Matsui, Morizo gets set to jump behind the wheel of the hydrogen-powered Corolla once more for the final leg


In its second race appearance, the hydrogen-powered Corolla finishes Autopolis trouble-free. Of the 85 laps completed in the race, 26 were driven by Morizo, the highest total among the four drivers. Having spurred the hydrogen-powered Corolla through 26 laps in the name of kaizen, master driver Morizo will continue the conversation in the next round at Suzuka.


The #28 GR Supra also notched up 105 laps in the race, passing the baton from Gamo to Daisuke, Yamashita, then Ogura


At Saturday’s press conference, Morizo addressed the organizers, saying, “Both the hydrogen-powered Corolla and the GR Supra are competing in the special ST-Q class, so there is no chance of us standing on the podium. But we would be more than happy if there was some opportunity.”

Indeed, ROOKIE Racing’s two cars are the only ones running in the ST-Q class for manufacturer prototypes – without rivals, there can be no rankings. Even so, the team competes; for the sake of a decarbonized society, for the employment in the automotive industry, for the society’s awareness of and progress towards carbon neutrality, and for the future of motorsports.


After the race, ROOKIE Racing team members and others involved in the event gather for the closing words. Morizo expressed his gratitude for the efforts of all those who contributed to the race. Morizo’s waving hand is directed at the second floor of the paddock building, towards the figure of Obayashi President Kenji Hasuwa.


To create a hydrogen energy society, it is necessary to expand the options for “producing,” “transporting,” and “using” hydrogen.

In the previous round at Fuji, the team expanded “use” options by starting to compete in the race with the hydrogen-powered Corolla.

Now at Autopolis, Obayashi’s geothermal plant and Toyota Motor Kyushu’s solar facilities expanded the options for “producing” green hydrogen with renewable energy technologies. For the next race at Suzuka, Toyota will team up with Kawasaki Heavy Industries to expand options on the “transport” side.

The idea of past, present, and future is something that everyone has in mind when taking action, but Morizo’s vision for the future lies far further along the timeline than most would imagine.