Motorsport: Toyota backs hybrid for Le Mans

By David Linklater

The EV P001. Photo / Supplied
The EV P001. Photo / Supplied

Clearly, there's a bit more to the hybrid-versus-diesel argument than which is king of the economy rallies. Toyota has announced a plan to return to the legendary Le Mans 24-hour race next year with a petrol-electric racing car built to the event's top LMP1 specification.

Le Mans is dominated by diesel-powered racing cars. Since 2006, Audi has won six times with its R-series machines, while arch rival Peugeot took the big prize in 2009 with the 908 HDi FAP.

Toyota's new LMP1 chassis will be created by Toyota Motorsport in Germany, but equipped with a hybrid petrol powertrain engineered by Toyota in Japan. The car will be rolled out early next year for pre-season testing.

Tadashi Yamashina, Toyota Motor Corp senior managing officer and Toyota Motorsport chairman, said: "Toyota has entered Le Mans before but, by using our hybrid technology, this time will be a completely new challenge.

"We want to write a new chapter in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours, as in the FIA World Endurance Championship, through our use of hybrid technology.

"In addition, we aim to learn from the experience of competing in such a challenging motorsport environment to enhance our production car technology."

Toyota last competed in the Le Mans 24 Hours as a manufacturer in the 1990s. In 1999, its GT-One set the lap record around the 13km-plus circuit.

Leading up to the Le Mans project, Toyota has also been keeping its hand in eco-friendly motorsport with the all-electric EV P001, which has just set a lap record for electric vehicles at the Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit in Germany. The EV P001 (based on a chassis from specialist maker Radical), with Jochen Krumbach at the wheel, set a new lap record of 7min 47.794sec around the famously demanding 20.8km circuit. The previous record of 9min 1.338sec was established by Peugeot's EX1 concept car.

Using two electric motors, the EV P001 has a top speed of 260km/h. The motors' combined 800Nm of torque helped it tackle the challenging Nordschleife track, which includes elevation changes and lengthy flat-out sections.

The new lap record was completed on road-legal tyres, using the complete Nordschleife track.

It was verified by independent lap timing.

Toyota Motorsport plans to market the EV P001 powertrain technology next year, with one-make electric-vehicle racing in mind.

- NZ Herald

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