Although Peugeot’s withdrawal from Le Mans series racing last week was a disappointment to those who have enjoyed its rivalry with Audi, the 2012 season will remain a closely fought affair due to the introduction of Toyota’s TS030 HYBRID Le Mans challenger.
The new FIA World Endurance Championship team, based at Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) in Cologne, Germany, will make its race debut on 5 May in the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, which is the second round of the championship.
A driver line-up of Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima has already been confirmed for one car while discussions are still ongoing to finalise the driver line-up for the other. Additionally, Andrea Caldarelli, from Pescara, Italy, has joined Toyota Racing as a junior driver.
The TS030 HYBRID is Toyota’s successor to the iconic TS010 and TS020 cars which participated at Le Mans with podium success during the 1990s, with TS an acronym for ToyotaSport.
Toyota is the first manufacturer to confirm its participation in the FIA World Endurance Championship using a hybrid system, emphasising the pioneering approach to this technology which has seen more than 3.5 million Toyota hybrid vehicles sold worldwide.
The THS-R (Toyota Hybrid System – Racing) powertrain is designed to deliver maximum performance and features an all-new V8 3.4litre normally-aspirated petrol engine and hybrid system with capacitor storage developed by official team partner Nisshinbo.
The team will use the TS030 HYBRID’s first test to evaluate the merits, within the current regulations, of a front motor system produced by Aisin AW and a rear motor system developed by official team partner DENSO. Those regulations limit hybrid systems to recovering a maximum of 500kJ between braking zones whilst restricting deployment to only two wheels.
A brand new carbon fibre LMP1 chassis has been developed and produced at TMG, where the complete car was assembled for the first time in preparation for a roll-out on 11-13 January at Paul Ricard.
During an exclusive test session at the French track, which included running in darkness, the TS030 HYBRID completed several hundred kilometres, showing an impressive level of reliability and performance for this very early stage in the car’s testing programme.
Alex Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre both put the TS030 HYBRID through its paces at Paul Ricard, joined by 30-year-old Japanese driver Hiroaki Ishiura, who is a candidate to join the driver line-up at races where Toyota Racing participates with two cars.
Official partners to the Toyota Racing programme include ZENT, Aisin, Nippon Steel, Takata, Toyoda Gosei and Michelin.