TOYOTA GAZOO Racing takes on the challenge of the Le Mans 24 Hours this month with the clear aim of victory in the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Two 1,000PS TS050 HYBRID cars are entered in the 86th edition of the classic French race. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López compete in the #7 car while Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima return in the #8 alongside Le Mans rookie Fernando Alonso.
After a one-two at Spa-Francorchamps in the first race of the season, the team expects to fight for victory in TOYOTA’s 20th attempt at Le Mans and feels well prepared following 25,000 km of pre-season testing designed to enhance the performance and reliability of the TS050 HYBRID cars.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing has already proved its speed at Le Mans in recent years, having missed out on victory due to a penultimate-lap technical problem in 2016 and setting a record-breaking fastest lap to earn pole position last year. Now the team’s task is to meet the endurance challenge of Le Mans and become only the second Japanese manufacturer to win.
TOYOTA takes on the challenge of Le Mans using around 35% less fuel than in 2012, when its first hybrid LMP1 car competed at La Sarthe, thanks to its most efficient hybrid electric powertrain for motorsport. The TS050 HYBRID is allocated 35.1 kg of fuel per stint, which is enough for 11 laps of the 13.626 km Circuit de la Sarthe.
The other LMP1 cars, which do not use hybrid electric technology and are allowed to be 45 kgs lighter than the TS050 HYBRIDs, will complete 10 laps per stint from their fuel load. The exact fuel allocation has yet to be confirmed but it is certain to be significantly more than the TS050 HYBRIDs, giving the non-hybrid cars more power and performance but also necessitating longer and more frequent fuel stops.
At Spa, the first race for the new LMP1 regulations saw TOYOTA win by two laps, helped by significantly quicker pit stops than its competitors. But at the recent Le Mans test day, Rebellion Racing recorded a lap time more than four seconds faster than any non-hybrid LMP1 car has achieved previously in the WEC era, raising the prospect of an exciting and competitive Le Mans race.
The Circuit de la Sarthe has been modified slightly since last year’s race with upgraded safety measures contributing to a reduction of the official track length by three metres. That means Kamui’s 2017 pole position time of 3mins 14.791secs on the 13.629 km lay-out can never be beaten and joins Martin Brundle’s fastest-ever lap of the 13.605 km lay-out, set at the wheel of a TS020 in 1999, in the Le Mans record books.
The 2018-specification TS050 HYBRIDs have already completed 2,752 km of the Circuit de la Sarthe, setting the fastest lap during the official test day on 3 June and the team aims to continue that strong reliability and performance throughout race week.
The Le Mans week represents the true spirit and challenge of endurance racing, featuring a total of almost 35 hours of driving, starting on Wednesday 13 June with a four-hour practice session at 16:00 before two hours of qualifying which starts at 22:00.
Qualifying continues on Thursday with another two 120-minute sessions (19:00 & 22:00). The starting grid is decided by the fastest lap from any of the qualifying sessions, with TOYOTA ready to fight for its fourth pole position at Le Mans. Friday’s drivers’ parade in the city gives fans a chance to meet the drivers before the weekend, which begins with a 45-minute warm-up at 09:00 with the race starting at 15:00 on Saturday.