Toyota is determined to snatch the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours trophy away from Audi with the first hybrid Le Mans challenger.
Following the sudden departure of Peugeot, who’ve challenged Audi’s sportscar stronghold as the only rival (other than an Audi-based Bentley) to win the Le Mans 24 Hours in more than a decade, the Japanese giant is returning to the sport complete with race-ready hybrid technology originally pioneered on models like the Prius.
Toyota’s confirmed drivers – former F1 drivers Alex Wurz and Kazuki Nakajima, and seasoned sportscar driver Nicolas Lapierre – helped officially unveil the TS030 HYBRID at Paul Ricard, France. The team will make its competition debut at Spa-Francorchamps for the six-hour enduro on 5 May.
While Audi and Peugeot have followed the diesel route, the hybrid system sees a naturally aspirated 3.4-litre V8 combined with an electric motor under which the TS030 will leave the pit lane – silently. The regulations also allow the hybrid to recover up to 500kJ of energy between braking zones, a crucial aspect to the car’s performance according to the team’s technical director, Pascal Vasselon; “For any given performance level, a hybrid powertrain will achieve this with less fuel so it is an extremely relevant technology and one we are excited to be bringing to endurance racing”.
Toyota aims to go one better than its previous best finish, second in 1999, ironically in the same year the now dominant Audi, who’ve won 10 of the last 12 Le Mans 24 Hours, entered the sport.