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.
2014 Toyota TS040 WEC Racer
This year’s World Endurance Championship season is sure to be an interesting one with the new aerodynamic changes made to the car, the new regulations, and the hybrid systems. Like its competitors Porsche and Audi , Toyota has unveiled its latest WEC car, the TS040. The car was debuted at in the South of France at the Paul Richard test track.
Toyota’s new TS040 Hybrid is a beastly combination of electrical- and gasoline-power wrapped in a narrower and yet more aerodynamic body. In compliance with the new, more stringent regulations, the TS040 is powered by a 3.7-liter V-8 making 513 horsepower along with a hybrid drive system producing its own 473 horsepower. Combined, the system produces a whopping 986 horsepower that is sent to all four wheels.
Toyota’s Hybrid System
With fuel economy out in front, the car’s hybrid system does some heavy lifting. The car features a motor-generator mounted on the front axle, along with the one in the rear. The two units scavenge energy by applying braking force during deceleration, along with the regular brakes, to generate current that it sends to a super-capacitor. That super-capacitor then reversed that flow of power during acceleration, helping power the wheels through the motor portion of the motor-generators. All told, this helps Toyota save the required 25 percent of fuel on each race.
In accordance with the new regulations, the new car is two inches narrower than last year’s TS030, and that requires skinner tires. The change helps reduce drag, but also puts more stress on the four smaller contact patches. Lightweight composites help manage the car’s overall weight and the reworked aerodynamics help keep the car on track, despite the smaller footprint.
The WEC series kicks off April 20 at the season opener at the Six-Hors of Silverstone race.
Audi’s contender for this year’s World Endurance Championship is a slightly updated version of the 2013 R18 e-tron quattro. The diesel -electric race car features a revised V-6, TDI, mid-mounted engine that powers the rear wheels and an e-tron quattro hybrid system at the front axle that includes an ERS-K system that stores kinetic energy. An optimised flywheel energy storage system and the ERS-H system are expected to make the R18 even more faster, reliable and... greener.
The Germans won’t be happy with anything else but a win, and, based on past results, the Ingolstadt crew is the one to beat this season as well.
Gallery Audi R18 e-tron quattro LMP1
Porsche’s highly-anticipated return to prototype racing will spur an unprecedented buzz throughout the whole WEC season and especially at Le Mans. Unlike its main competitors, the Stuttgart stable is counting on a 2.0-liter V-4 engine and two separate energy recovery systems. The V-4 seems like an odd choice for a manufacturer that built its tradition by racing flat-6 and flat-12 mills, but we must trust the Germans on this one.
As with most hybrids, the front axle is powered by an electric motor that uses regenerative braking. The second unit, however, utilizes thermal energy generated by the exhaust and powers a generator. The additional power is stored in water-cooler lithium-ion battery packs until the driver uses it for that extra kick.
Gallery Porsche 919 Hybrid
Toyota Racing today took the wraps off the new TS040 Hybrid, the car which will take the team into the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship and a new era of hybrid powered motorsport.
The new car, revealed today at the Paul Ricard circuit in the South of France, represents the most advanced hybrid technology in modern racing. Tomorrow it will begin an official championship test session, prior to making its competition debut at the season-opening Six Hours of Silverstone race on 20 April.
Toyota will be taking on rival manufacturers Audi and Porsche with a car that benefits from 480PS (473bhp/353kW) of all-wheel drive hybrid boost in addition to the 520PS (513bhp/383kW) produced by its 3.7-litre V8 petrol engine, taking maximum power to 1,000PS (986bhp/736kW).
The new powertrain has been developed in line with revised WEC technical regulations, which put an emphasis on fuel economy. Teams are required to use 25 per cent less fuel than in 2013, with savings achieved through changes to powertrains, aerodynamics and driving style. By adopting more road-relevant technology, the WEC will increase the possibilities for the transfer of Toyota’s race-bred technical know-how to its production cars, strengthening is status as the world’s leading manufacturer of hybrid vehicles.
Toyota Racing have made gains in efficiency and performance by using specialist lubricants they have developed with their official partner, Total. The more open regulations have also allowed the team to engineer a major increase in hybrid power, using a new motor-generator on the front axle in addition to the unit at the rear. Under deceleration, these motor generators apply braking force in combination with the traditional mechanical brakes to harvest energy, which is then transferred via an inverter to a super-capacitor. When the car accelerates, the motor-generators reverse their function, delivering a power boost to all four wheels.
The V8 engine has been engineered at the Higashfuji technical centre, the research base where Toyota’s next-generation road car technology is also developed.
The TS040 Hybrid’s chassis is designed, developed and manufactured by Toyota Motorsport (TMG) in Cologne, Germany. It marks a major evolution of last year’s TS030 Hybrid, incorporating design changes dictated by the new championship regulations, including a maximum width reduced by 10cm and the adoption of additional safety features.
Particular attention has been paid to managing airflow around the car, not only to reduce drag and improve fuel economy, but also to increase downforce and grip to compensate for the use of narrower tyres. The final design has been honed in TMG’s wind tunnels and rendered exceptionally lightweight thanks to the use of advanced composite technologies and production processes. Individual components have been put through intensive computer simulations using real track data to ensure optimum performance in race conditions.
The TS040 Hybrid has already completed 12 days of testing across Europe since January and it will undergo a further test following this week’s prologue event ahead of its first race.
Toyota Racing have shuffled the pack of drivers for the new season, with Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima sharing the No7 car and Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sébastien Buemi piloting the No8 machine.
Looking ahead to the prospects for the 2014 season, including a return to the Le Mans 24 Hours, Davidson said: “It’s hard to know where our competition will be performance-wise. We are waiting to face them on track but you have to expect Audi will have done a good job and will probably be the one to beat despite Porsche’s heritage in this category. The target is clear for us: winning races and of course Le Mans, which remains the main goal and the race I want to win. We just have to make the final step forward after our 2013 result.”
He is confident the new car has what it takes: “When I first saw the car, I was most impressed with the level of detail. The aerodynamics are very advanced and you can immediately see how much effort the team has put into this when you look at the car. From the driving seat, the most impressive aspect is the four-wheel drive hybrid; the traction and the power really feel good when you come out of a corner.
2014 FIA World Endurance Championship Calendar:
20 Apr Six Hours of Silverstone (GB)
3 May Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (Bel)
14 Jun Le Mans 24 Hours (Fra)
20 Sep Six Hours of Circuit of the Americas (USA)
12 Oct Six Hours of Fuji (Jpn)
2 Nov Six Hours of Shanghai (Chi)
15 Nov Six Hours of Bahrain
30 Nov Six Hours of Sao Paulo (Bra)