Autoblog readers will recall that we reported on Lexus' plans to enter a modified GS450h hybrid in a 24-hour endurance race last month. Well, the race has been run, the results are in, and the big Denso-sponsored Lexus came home a remarkable 4th in class and 17th overall. Making the result even more significant is the fact that the Tokachi 24 hour race marked the first time a hybrid vehicle had entered an FIA-sanctioned circuit race.

Lexus team SARD ran a conservative race, their first competition outing with the new car, steadily moving up the overall classification from 30th at the six hour mark to 17th after 18 hours.

Despite being stripped and lightened for racing, the big sedan still passed over the scales nearly 300 lb over the allowed minimum weight for its class - a huge disadvantage that probably contributed to a mid-race pit stop to change brake rotors. The hybrid powertrain necessitated some unusual pit stop procedures - the crew had to regularly replenish the dry ice cooling system for the trunk-mounted batteries.

With the FIA already looking at regenerative braking and alternative powertrains for its flagship Formula 1 series, don't be surprised to see more hybrid cars in international motorsports in the next few years.

More pics after the jump.

[Source: Lexus team SARD]