Toyota has used the pre-race press conference at 24 hours of Le Mans to announce its continuation in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) for the 2020/2021 racing season.
A new hypercar class will replace the current LMP1 category, in which Toyota Gazoo Racing runs its hybrid TS050 as the sole manufacturer-based team.
First announced in 2018, the regulations for the new class were only officially finalised this year. The new category will see Toyota compete with at least one other factory-backed team: Aston Martin.
In a bid to lure other manufacturers to the top-tier category, the regulations have been crafted to lower overheads for teams, and also includes parity measures to ensure closer, more competitive racing.
For Toyota, it means it will move away from the TS050’s 736kW hybrid 2.4-litre twin-turbo V6 powertrain to a lower output hybrid setup producing around 550kW.
In order to reduce reliance on high-cost lightweight materials, vehicle weights are set to increase from 878kg of the current car to 1100kg.
As a consequence, each lap of the 13 kilometre Le Mans circuit will increase from the current 3 minute 13 second benchmark to around three-and-a-half minutes.
“We will continue at Le Mans, as this the the best category to develop our cars,” Shigeki Tomoyama (above), Toyota Gazoo Racing president, told assembled media at the pre-race press conference.
He then went on to reveal the 2018 GR Super Sports concept would form the basis of its hypercar-class race entrant.
Under the new category's rules, manufacturers may chose to style their competing cars to match an existing production model, or alternatively base their race car off a new road-going model, of which 20 must be produced over a two-year period.
When asked which direction Toyota would be taking, Tomoyama indicated Toyota would run a prototype car in the style of the GR Super Sports, opening the window to a limited production run for the 2018 concept.
Though unconfirmed, it seems likely both the race-spec car and the road-going GR Super Sports will have powertrains based on a version of the hybrid twin-turbo V6 system powering this year’s TS050 (below).
Tomoyama added, “It is the strong wish of [Toyota president, Akio Toyoda] that motorsports becomes the platform or base for building ever better cars.”
When asked about potential pricing for the road going version, Tomoyama would not be drawn on a final figure. He suggested, even though the new racing category would drive costs down for teams, the road going version would be “very expensive.”
“The development of such a road car will take time. Please be patient, we think it will be very much worth the wait,” Tomoyama promised.