March 31, 2017
TOYOTA UNVEILS ITS PLANS FOR VICTORY AT LE MANS
Toyota has unveiled a heavily revised car with a new engine and improved hybrid system in its bid to secure a maiden victory in the Le Mans 24-hour classic and to add another World Endurance Championship to its trophy cabinet.
Almost every area of the TS050 Hybrid race car has been subjected to combined development work at Toyota's technical centres in Higashi-Fuji (Japan) and Cologne (Germany).
This includes the turbocharged petrol engine, powerful hybrid system that is even more efficient, reworked chassis and revised aerodynamics. Only the monocoque is unchanged.
Team president Toshio Sato said the team has a clear target to earn its first Le Mans victory following an extraordinary near miss in 2016.
"We know from painful experience that Le Mans is a very difficult race to win, but that is our target," he said.
Toyota will campaign three TS050 Hybrid race cars this year. Team drivers Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi will be joined in car #7 by Argentinian sensation José María López who has won the past three World Touring Car championships.
They are scheduled to contest all nine rounds of this year's championship alongside the #8 car to be piloted by Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima.
A third car designated #9 will compete at two rounds - Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) in May and Le Mans (France) in June - led by Stéphane Sarrazin. He will be joined by reigning Japan Super Formula champion Yuji Kunimoto and Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre who is returning to the team after a two-year absence.
The 2017-specification 2.4-litre V6 turbo-charged petrol engine optimises thermal efficiency by increasing the compression ratio via development of the combustion chamber, cylinder block and cylinder head.
The hybrid system's motor generator units are smaller and lighter while the high-powered lithium-ion battery has been developed further.
Toyota says knowledge gained by its powertrain engineers, including the latest advances in hybrid technology, will directly benefit its road cars.
For safety reasons, WEC regulations for 2017 target a reduction in aerodynamic efficiency, aimed at increasing the Le Mans lap time by several seconds. This is achieved by raising the front splitter by 15mm in combination with a narrower rear diffuser.
The team has used computational fluid dynamics and wind tunnels to modify its aerodynamic concept to meet this challenge. A raised nose and sharp undercut to the sidepods are the most noticeable changes.
New regulations limit teams to two aerodynamic configurations per season, reduced from three in 2016. Each car will be limited to four sets, plus two spare tyres, for qualifying and six-hour races. The team has worked with Michelin to develop new compounds and constructions. Suspension geometry has been recalibrated to limit wear.
Other rule changes are designed to enhance safety. Side mirrors now need to pass a wider visibility field test while hybrid cars must display lights to indicate normal powertrain behaviour. If the green safety light is not illuminated during a race, a car will be forced to pit for repairs.
The revised TS050 has already recorded over 30,000km in testing this year, including four 30-hour endurance tests.
This year's championship begins at Silverstone (UK) on April 16.
In 2017, Toyota marks the 60th anniversary of its first international motorsport entry (and the first by a Japanese car manufacturer), when it contested the 1957 Round Australia Trial. This is why many people consider Australia to be the birthplace of Toyota's international motorsport. Today, Toyota contests the FIA-sanctioned World Rally Championship (WRC), World Endurance Championship (WEC) which features the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the gruelling Dakar Rally. Closer to home, the Toyota 86 Racing Series seeks to develop the talent of tomorrow as Australia's premier grassroots circuit-racing category.
Toyota in the World Endurance Championship:
Toyota first competed in the World Endurance Championship in 1983, marking the start of a long period of participation in endurance racing. Since 1985, Toyota cars have raced in 18 Le Mans 24 Hours races, achieving a best result of second place on five occasions. Toyota entered the revived WEC in 2012. Since then, Toyota has earned 10 pole positions and won 11 races, finishing on the podium a total of 31 times. In 2014, the team won the drivers' and manufacturers' World Championships.