The 80th edition of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans will feature a unique battle. For the first time in history, multiple hybrid cars will hit the French track. Toyota participates with the TS030 Hybrid, a successor to the iconic TS010 and TS020 cars during the 1990s, and Audi will equip two out of four of their successful R18’s with a hybrid powertrain.
Following the first win for a TFSI engine (2001) and the historical first triumph for a diesel powered car (2006) the brand with the four rings targets yet another technical milestone at the world’s most famous and most important endurance race. “To develop the hybrid technology for Le Mans is at least as ambitious and challenging as our diesel project was in its early stages”, explains Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “The first test results are very encouraging and we are intrigued to see just how this technology performs in combination with our ultra-lightweight technology on the race track at Le Mans. As before, we still, however, see potential with the conventional drive – just as our colleagues do in production development. This is why we are absolutely delighted that the ACO and FIA selection committee has accepted our entries and that we can join the grid with four cars at the commemorative running of the Le Mans race.”
The new Audi sports prototype with hybrid drive will be presented at the end of February. By then, Toyota has tested their machine over several thousands of kilometres. After the announcement in the final week of January, the Toyota team spent three days at the Paul Ricard circuit in southern France for the first full test of the TS030 Hybrid, following a three-day roll-out at the same circuit earlier that month. The team studied many areas, including the THS-R powertrain, particularly during longer stints, while taking the first steps towards optimising aerodynamic and mechanical set-up.
“Of course we would love to win Le Mans; that is the dream for all competitors in this race. But we are realistic and we know we need to develop and to learn in order to compete with some very strong competition”, explains Toyota Motorsport President Yoshiaki Kinoshita. “Our target this year is to show the performance level of our car and particularly the THS-R powertrain. Hybrid is a core technology of Toyota so it is important to demonstrate this in a motorsport arena and we want to prove it can bring a performance advantage, both in terms of lap time and fuel efficiency. Everyone involved in designing, developing and preparing the car – both at TMG and at Motor Sport Division in Japan – has worked incredibly hard to reach this point and we are all very excited to be back on the race track again.”
Toyota’s first race is scheduled on 14-17 March during the 60th edition of the 12 Hours of Sebring. The first battle between both manufacturers will take place during the 6 hours of Spa-Francorchamps, from 3-5 May. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is next on the calendar and will take place on 16 and 17 June.