The first official testing session of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) starts today at Paul Ricard in southern France, and Toyota Racing has unveiled its latest contender which will spearhead the team’s quest for victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours – the revised TS030 Hybrid.
It uses an improved version of the THS-R (Toyota Hybrid System – Racing) powertrain introduced in last year’s car – a super capacitor-based system delivering 300 hp of boost on top of the 530 hp generated by a 3.4 litre, normally-aspirated V8 petrol engine.
Apart from the powertrain upgrade, the chassis and aerodynamics have also been tweaked to improve power, efficiency, management of component usage and most crucially reliability which hampered its debut season.
The TS030’s main rival this year will again be the diesel-powered Audi R18 e-tron quattro, which uses its Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) regenerative braking device to power the front wheels. Toyota instead has elected to send its boost energy to the rear wheels, giving it a more racing-appropriate rear-wheel drive layout.
Toyota Racing will run a two car team for the entire WEC season. An unchanged line-up of Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima team up again in the #7 TS030 Hybrid while car #8 will compete outside of Le Mans for the first time, with a team of Anthony Davidson, Stéphane Sarrazin and Sébastien Buemi.
The TS030 Hybrid racecar has had a troubled upbringing. First scheduled to make its competitive debut at the 6 Heures de Spa-Francorchamps in May last year, a chassis-breaking crash while testing at Paul Ricard forced the team to change its plan and run for the first time at the year’s main event, the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
Neither entries finished the race, with car #8 crashing heavily when baulked by an inexperienced Ferrari driver and car #7, despite showing early promise to lead the proceedings, suffered an irreversible engine failure several hours into the race. But, it then went on to take three race victories in Sao Paulo, Fuji and Shanghai to finish second overall in the LMP1 category of the WEC.
Not bad at all for a debut year, but for Toyota the revered Le Mans crown is sorely missed, having come excruciatingly close to win the title twice in 1992 and 1999 with the TS010 and TS020 (better known as the GT-One) respectively. Can the TS030 Hybrid be the one to break Toyota’s Le Mans duck?