Toyota is entering a hybrid vehicle in Japan's only 24-hour race later this month, marking the first time a major automaker is playing a leading role in putting a gas-and-electric car in a competition that has semi-international status, AP reports.

The hybrid Lexus GS450h sedan will take part in the Tokachi 24-hour race at Tokachi International Speedway in Hokkaido from July 15-17, Toyota said Tuesday in a statement.

Up until now in Japan, only private teams that had hybrids have competed in independent events at various racing circuits.

According to AP, Toyota said engineers are trying to obtain technology feedback for future vehicles and hopes to obtain more insight into how to make hybrid systems smaller, lighter and more efficient. They will also collect data on the potential of hybrid systems in motorsports, the automaker said.

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