Toyota has made a name for itself as the industry leader in hybrid propulsion. This is its latest, but you shouldn’t expect to find it humming along in the carpool lane on your local stretch of highway.
Unveiled at Monza this weekend is Toyota’s latest endurance racing prototype, set to take on the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship and its headline event, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The new TS050 Hybrid is based on the version it ran last year, but has been all but completely redesigned to the point that it only shares its basic carbon-monocoque chassis with the 2016 version.
The hybrid LMP1 packs a 2.4-liter twin-turbo V6 engine paired with an 8-megajoule electric motor – the same as last year’s, only redesigned from the block up. The vehicle has also been reshaped in compliance with the latest changes to the regulations, designed to make the cars slower than last year’s in an effort to increase safety. It was presented in low-downforce specification for higher-speed tracks, with a higher-downforce package to follow for more technical circuits.
With Audi out of the way (and Nissan barely having flashed in the pan), the new Toyota will have to contend only with Porsche and its 919 Hybrid in this year’s championship and Le Mans race. Toyota won the former in 2014 and came tantalizingly close to the latter last year, and we’d expect it to push that much harder this time around to beat the Germans to the top step on the podium.
To that end, the Japanese outfit has lined up a top roster of drivers to handle the new TS050. Included among them are former F1 drivers Kamui Kobayashi, Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, and Kazuki Nakajimi. They’ll be joined by LMP2 champ Nicolas Lapierre, Le Mans veteran Stéphane Sarrazin, and touring-car champ José María López, as well as Mike Conway and Yuji Kunimoto.