Toyota Racing has vowed to push the limits of hybrid technology in motorsport with the launch today of its new all-wheel-drive TS040 Hybrid race car.
The unveiling of the TS040 Hybrid has also highlighted the important role that testing hybrid technology in the harsh conditions of motorsport plays in improving Toyota’s hybrid road cars like Prius and Camry.
Two TS040 Hybrid race cars – designed, developed and manufactured by Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) in Cologne – will compete in this year’s World Endurance Championship (WEC), including the Le Mans 24-hour endurance classic in June.
Described as having the most advanced hybrid technology in racing, the TS040 Hybrid delivers a maximum power boost of more than 18 per cent while complying with new regulations that cut fuel use by 25 per cent.
Output from the car’s hybrid system has gained well over 100kW to a peak of 735kW (1000ps) by combining a major advance in electric power with a larger-capacity 3.7-litre V8 petrol engine.
The system takes hybrid technology to the next level, adding a motor-generator on the front axle in addition to a similar unit at the rear, allowing the system to provide power to all four wheels.
A major evolution of the TS030 Hybrid that won five WEC races over the past two seasons, the latest powertrain harvests more braking energy that is stored in a super-capacitor and used under acceleration to deliver a 480ps power boost.
Team president Yoshiaki Kinoshita said the new WEC regulations – that also include reductions in maximum weight as well as improved safety – ensure endurance racing remains the most road-relevant discipline in top-level motorsport.
“We are competing in order to test the latest hybrid technology in the most extreme motorsport environments, and this has a direct influence on future road-car technology,” Mr Kinoshita said.
“I am very proud that data, knowledge and technology pass regularly from our racing program to our research and development colleagues,” he said.
Know-how from Toyota’s WEC motorsport program has already been used to enhance the company’s hybrid road cars with more than six million hybrids sold around the world since the launch of the Prius in 1997.
The all-wheel-drive TS040 hybrid powertrain, including its normally aspirated V8 engine, was developed at Toyota’s Higashi-Fuji technical centre in Japan, where next-generation Toyota road car technology is born.
The move to an all-wheel-drive hybrid sees Toyota return to a concept which has been part of its hybrid racing development since 2007 when the all-wheel-drive Supra HV-R became the first hybrid to win an endurance race, the Tokachi 24 Hours.
In developing the TS040, TMG engineers paid particular attention to airflow around the car, reducing drag to produce better fuel economy while increasing downforce and grip to compensate for tyres which are 50mm narrower than last year.
Allowable width for the Le Mans prototype cars has been reduced by 100mm while the maximum weight is down by 45kg.
Extensive development at TMG’s state-of-the-art wind tunnels has resulted in an aerodynamically efficient design which is also incredibly lightweight thanks to advanced composite design and production processes.
A fuel-flow meter will monitor fuel use, with race penalties applying if the three-lap average consumption exceeds defined limits determined by Toyota Racing’s decision to opt for 6MJ of hybrid capacity per lap of Le Mans.
The team has retained the same six drivers, although Stéphane Sarrazin joins Alex Wurz and Kazuki Nakajima in the #7 car, swapping with Nicolas Lapierre who moves to the #8 car with Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi.
The TS040 Hybrid has completed 12 days of testing across Europe, covering around 18,000km.
After this week’s test at the Paul Ricard circuit in France, the team plans one further session before the Six Hours of Silverstone on April 20.