This year's Le Mans 24 Hours just got a lot more interesting! Only a week after Peugeot decided to pull the plug on its racing program, Toyota has announced that it will be running two of it's new TS030 Hybrid racing cars at the Six Hours of Spa, on 5 May, and the subsequent Le Mans 24 Hours on 16-17 June. Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima have all been confirmed as drivers for the team.
Toyota's TS030 is the first FIA approved endurance racer to use a hybrid system of any kind. The THS-R (Toyota Hybrid System - Racing) powertrain centres around an all-new 3.4-litre petrol V8, with two possible options still on the table for motors and charging. The first is a front motor system developed by Aisin AW, or a rear-mounted system developed by official team partner DENSO - both limited to recovering a maximum of 500kJ between braking zones, and restricting deployment to only two wheels.
Successor to the TS010 and TS020, which both competed at Le Mans during the '90s, the TS030 is is built on an all-new carbon fibre LMP1 chassis produced at TMG, where the complete car was assembled for the first time.
Alex Wurz put the new car through its paces at a recent test-day at the Paul Riccard circuit in France, and commented: 'It was cool to drive the TS030 HYBRID for the first time. Just leaving the garage on electric power is very futuristic, then when you let the clutch go and the internal combustion engine kicks in, it is like an old friend has returned!
'I am definitely very happy but my nature is to also be analytical and therefore I know there is still a lot of work to be done. It’s really good to work with all the mechanics and engineers; the Toyota Racing team is very international and this works well. I am very comfortable in this team because they are all extremely professional, that is really clear.'
Running for a number of hours and a few hundred miles at Paul Riccard, the test showed that the TS030 was fundamentally reliable, but Toyota admits that the car will need a lot of development before its first outing at Spa.