Toyota ’s history with the 24 Hours of Le Mans goes way back to 1985, but, to the automaker’s dismay, the Japanese have yet to clinch an overall win. It was close though, scoring second-place finishes on four occasions.
Toyota’s earlier efforts ceased after the 1999 race, right before Audi rose to power to become the fierce "oppressor" that won 13 out of the last 14 events. Yes, we’ve included Bentley ’s success from 2003 as well, because the Speed 8 was nothing but an Audi R8 underneath.
With the Germans sweeping just about anything in their way, Toyota returned to Circuit de la Sarthe in 2012. Itsweapon of choice, the TS030 Hybrid , failed to finish, sending team engineers back to the drawing board. The 2013 evolution of the race car was more competitive, but Toyota Racing had to settle with second place once again.
Fortunately, Toyota’s not willing to give up just yet, and the Audi - Toyota prototype class war will see another battle this year. In fact, it’s going to be a three-way, because Porsche will be returning to France, after 16 years, with their latest hybrid machine - the 919.
Anyway, Toyota won’t be fielding an updated TS030, but a brand-new vehicle. Dubbed TS040 Hybrid (no surprises here), the new TMG-developed LMP1 car will be quite different. And we’re not talking about the fact that it’ll be narrower, as required by new FIA regulations, it will also benefit from all-wheel drive.
It appears the Japanese are keeping the gasoline-electric drivertrain, with the naturally-aspirated V-8 motivating the rear wheels. For 2014, however, an Aisin electric motor will be spinning the front axle, while a DENSO inverter will be in charge of sending energy to a super-capacitor during braking. Nothing too fancy to today’s standards, but competitive enough for endurance racing .
Toyota will field two TS040 Hybrids in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and World Endurance Championship. The driver lineup will remain unchanged, with Alexander Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre, Kazuki Nakajima, Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Stephane Sarrazin sharing duties.
The new race cars will make their first public appearances at FIA’s official test session at the Paul Ricard Circuit on March 28, so make sure you stick around for additional details.
Updated 03/27/2014: The new Toyota TS040 Hybrid made its world debut today at Paul Ricard circuit in the South of France. Check out the new specs and images revealed at the event!
Click past the jump to read more about the Toyota Racing TS040 Hybrid.