If you thought the release of the Toyota 86 was the start of a new and significantly more exciting chapter for Toyota, you may be right. Apart from bringing a proper sports car to the masses, the Japanese giant has announced that it will compete in the Le Mans 24-hour race next week with a two-car team.
No, it won’t be Toyota 86s, but a pair of significantly more powerful TS030 hybrids that will carry the Toyota flag in Le Mans for the first time in 12 years. The TS030s, successors to the TS010s and TS020s which had podium finishes back in the 90s, are powered by an all-new 3.4-litre naturally-aspirated V8 petrol engine coupled to a hybrid system with capacitor storage.
The idea of using a hybrid is to provide better lap times by utilising the electric motor for better corner exit speed. Hisatake Murata, in charge of the hybrid project, believes Toyota’s hybrid systems have two valuable uses on a racetrack.
“Either it delivers faster lap times through improving speed on the exit of corners, or you choose to save fuel by using the internal combustion engine less on corner exit and allowing the hybrid system to compensate. We are aiming for faster lap times; that is our clear priority.”
Much like a Toyota Camry Hybrid, these Le Mans racers use braking resistance to regenerate power, while being able to run in electric-only mode as well. Interestingly, Le Mans regulations put a restriction on how many kJ of energy a hybrid system can recover between braking zones (500kJ).
This year’s Le Mans promises to be a rather exciting race, with the likes of Audi entering two R18 e-tron Quattro hybrids that will take on the Toyota challenge. Nissan is also putting forward a rather interesting Delta Wing contender that looks more at home in Batman’s secret cave.
CarAdvice is heading to Le Mans next week and will bring you live coverage from the event.