Toyota is known as the world’s leading manufacturer in hybrid technology and innovation for its road cars. With Toyota Racing’s new TS040 Hybrid LMP1 race car, the Japanese automaker will look to once again prove it has the know-how to compete with hybrids on the race track. The Toyota Racing TS040 Hybrid will compete in the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), which includes the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans, and hopes to take down Audi and Porsche for ultimate racing glory.
Like other WEC race teams, Toyota adapted this year’s LMP1 car according to more stringent regulations that emphasize fuel economy. The rules mandate that race cars must use at least 25 percent less fuel, prompting Toyota to further advance and refine technology used on the outgoing TS030 Hybrid. Gains in aerodynamics and downforce, as well as Total-developed lubricant technology, account for the improved fuel economy. Other changes include a 3.9-inch narrower body and narrower tires for reduced rolling resistance and drag than the outgoing TS030 Hybrid, which took second and fourth place at last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Toyota’s new TS040 Hybrid will still use V-8 power and a pair of electric motor-generators (one on each axle), but that engine's displacement will increase from 3.4 liters to 3.7 liters. Power from the V-8 gas engine and the electric motors totals 986 hp, which is now sent to all four wheels. The electric motors can gather kinetic energy recovered during braking and store it for later use in a supercapacitor.
Toyota claims that the WEC’s new regulations increase the chances of seeing race technology used in road-going cars, which falls in line with news that the aforementioned supercapacitor technology could go to work in the upcoming BMW/Toyota hybrid sports car. Toyota Motorsport (TMG) is even rumored to add a performance line for Toyota and Lexus road cars, similar to that of AMG for Mercedes-Benz.
Porsche’s return to Le Mans with the 919 Hybrid is one of the biggest stories of this upcoming season, but Toyota will also have to wrangle with Audi and its R18 e-tron Quattro. The FIA WEC season begins April 20 with the Six Hours of Silverstone in Great Britain, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans takes place on June 14. Be sure to tune in and see if the Toyota TS040 Hybrid can unseat its German rivals on the world stage.