Toyota Racing will write a new chapter in the history of hybrid motorsport next week when it takes part in the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours (13 – 17 June).
The team is fielding two TS030 HYBRID cars in the elite LMP1 class, equipped with Toyota’s new THS-R (Toyota Hybrid System – Racing) powertrain, developed specifically for motorsport. The race will mark the culmination of an intense period of preparation, during which the new technology has been tested and refined ready to take on one of motorsport’s greatest challenges.
A key decision has been to fit a Denso rear hybrid motor within the gearbox casing. The car also makes good use of regenerative braking, with energy recovered and stored in super capacitors, located in the cockpit. This can then be used to provide extra boost on the exit from corners (up to 500Kj between braking zones, as dictated by competition rules).
The hybrid powertrain has been produced by the Toyota’s motorsport division at Higashifuji in Japan, and the TS030 HYBRID chassis has been developed and manufactured by Toyota Motorsport (TMG) in Cologne, Germany.TMGis the team’s home base and also provides the on-track personnel.
Since it first turned a wheel on 13 January, the TS030 HYBRID has completed 18 test days, most of them at Paul Ricard in France, but also at MotorLand Aragon (Spain), Magny-Cours (France) and Le Mans itself.
Despite the challenges of optimising such new technology, and the loss of one chassis in a testing accident, progress has been rapid and Toyota Racing heads for Le Mans with the aim of continuing its development programme while at the same time proving the performance potential of the THS-R system.
The environmental dimension of Toyota Racing’s participation at Le Mans will be further supported by Yamaha Motor Europe, which will be providing 16 EC-03 electric scooters for team use in the race paddock. This partnership sees Yamaha become an official supplier to Toyota Racing. A talented driver line-up mixes proven Le Mans experience, natural speed, consistency and strong team spirit.
The number 7 car features two-time winner Alex Wurz (Austria), former Sebring 12 Hours winner Nicolas Lapierre (France) and ex-Formula 1 driver Kazuki Nakajima (Japan). In the number 8 car, three-time Le Mans pole position winner Stéphane Sarrazin (France) joins multiple endurance winner Anthony Davidson (Great Britain) and Formula 1 young gun Sébastien Buemi (Switzerland).
Davidson acknowledges the scale of the challenge but is fired up to do well: “To succeed here you need to be on top form, it’s as simple as that. The test day gave us plenty of encouragement and we have to continue in this direction in order to be well prepared for the race. I am a positive and realistic guy; I hope we will have the car to fight at the front but I also know that 2012 is our first year so we have many things to learn.”
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President, said: “This is a learning year for Toyota Racing but nevertheless we set ourselves high standards, so we want to prove the performance potential of the hybrid system and the TS030 HYBRID.
“We know it is not easy to face such experienced opponents and we face a steep learning curve, but the ultimate medium-term target for this project is to win Le Mans so we aim to take a big step in this direction in 2012.”
Action begins on Wednesday 13 June with practice (4 to 8pm local time) and first qualifying (10pm to midnight) followed on the following day by second qualifying (7 to 9pm) and final qualifying (10pm to midnight). Following a Saturday morning warm-up (9 to 9.45am) the race begins at 3pm.
Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota’s Executive Vice President of Toyota Motor Corporation and the hybrid power pioneer responsible for the Toyota Prius, has the honour of the ceremonial flag-waving to get the race under way.
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11 June 2012