Toyota announces new hybrid race car for 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours

Article by Christian Andrei, on October 14, 2011

Toyota revealed today the first sketch with its new hybrid power sports car that will mark its return at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2012. According to the Japanese manufacturer, the new sports car will feature a LMP1 chassis designed, developed and produced by Toyota Motorsport in Germany, and equipped with a hybrid petrol powertrain engineered by Toyota in Japan.

The last car from Toyota which competed in the Le Mans 24 Hours was in the GT-One, a vehicle that established a new race lap record in 1999.

The new team will have its headquarters at the Toyota Motorsport Cologne and it is expected that the new car will be rolled out early in 2012 for an extensive pre-season testing programme.

Tadashi Yamashina, Toyota Motor Corporation Senior Managing Officer and Toyota Motorsport Chairman, said: “Toyota has entered Le Mans before, but by using our hybrid technology this time will be a completely new challenge. We want to write a new chapter in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours, as in the FIA World Endurance Championship, through our use of hybrid technology."

During the 1990s, Toyota managed to achieve a number of victories at the Le Mans through the now iconic models, the TS010 and the TS020. For those not familiar, the “TS” stands for Toyota Sport. Toyota intends to continue that tradition with the release of the TS030 Hybrid. Inside it is the Toyota Hybrid System – Racing, or the THS-R, a powertain that has been designed to give maximum performance. Part of this powertrain is the normally-aspirated 3.4-liter V8 petrol engine with a hybrid system that has a capacitor storage created by Nisshinbo, Toyota’s official team partner.

With this, Toyota becomes the first ever automaker to join the FIA World Endurance Championship with a vehicle that utilizes a hybrid system. This is the same system that served as a pioneer in this technology that has been equipped in at least 3.5 million hybrid units around the world. However, Toyota’s team will first be testing this model in order to assess the advantages of having a front system made by Aisin AW with a rear motor system produced by DENSO, but ensuring that it is within the bounds of the present rules.

Under the rules, hybrid systems are limited to having a maximum 500 kJ maximum recovery in between the braking zones. In addition, deployment is restricted to two wheels. There is also a new LMP1 chassis that is made up of carbon fiber and made at TMB. This is also where the final version of the TS030 Hybrid will be assembled in order to prepare it for the 11-13 January roll-out at Paul Ricard.

At the French track, the TS030 Hybrid underwent an exclusive test session where it was also driven in the dark. It not only managed to finish a couple of hundred kilometres but even showed an excellent reliability level and performance, a good feat considering that it is still at the early stages of the testing program.

It was Nicolas Lapierre and Alex Wurz who ran the TS030 HYBRID at the Circuit Paul Ricard. They were later joined by Hiroaki Ishiura, the 30-year old driver from Japan who is expected to be part of the line-up as Toyota Racing will be utilizing two cars.

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