After a successful pre-season programme which included 21,000 kms of running over four 3-day tests, the Toyota GAZOO Racing team is ready to take on the challenge of a new World Endurance Championship (WEC) season in 2018. There are 8 rounds and for the team, the clear target is to finally overcome the challenge of the Le Mans 24 Hours, which has so far eluded Toyota.
Its 2018-19 car – the TS050 HYBRID – has shown itself to have a 4-second advantage over the quickest of the privately-run LMP1 racing cars at the first WEC event of the season, the 30-hour Prologue test, which was run this weekend.
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing may be the only major manufacturer in the LMP1 class but it faces an unprecedented challenge to its hybrid electric technology; the TS050 HYBRIDs must fight for victory against LMP1 rivals who have 69% more fuel energy. New regulations for this season give private LMP1 teams, who do not use hybrid technology, 210.9 MJ per lap of Le Mans compared to the 124.9 MJ available to the TS050 HYBRID, together with 8 MJ of hybrid electric energy. Fuel flow for the TS050 HYBRIDs is also restricted, to 80 kgs per hour compared to 110 kgs/hr for the competition in a further move to strengthen the non-hybrid LMP1 cars, which additionally are allowed to run 45 kgs lighter.
Nevertheless, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing welcomes the challenge of proving the efficiency and performance of its hybrid electric powertrain in such tough conditions. “The regulations this year have set us a challenge like no other. We have demonstrated since 2012 that our hybrid electric powertrain delivers real performance and efficiency benefits; now we must be more efficient than ever to beat our LMP1 rivals, who have significantly more energy, more fuel flow and less weight. We thrive on challenges like this as they push us to make ever-better cars,” said Rob Leupen, Team Director.
“Unlike previous years, the upgrades on our 2018 car are limited. In addition to reliability improvements on the powertrain, we updated the cooling system and developed the bodywork within our 2017 homologation. In terms of outright performance, in the past 4 years, we have had a car fast enough to win Le Mans on three occasions, with no fundamental reliability issues. Nevertheless, we failed every time to win so we had to do something about it. In Le Mans you can expect that 30 – 40% of race circumstances will be beyond your control; this is the beauty and, at the same time, the horror of Le Mans. So we have largely changed the way we are preparing for the race this year, focusing more on unconventional race situations. We always have to improve and there was room for improvement to reach our obvious targets,” added Pascal Vasselon, Technical Director.
So that's a wrap for the WEC Prologue for 2018, after 1,002 laps and 5,802km from our two TS050 HYBRIDs. Here's what our drivers thought of the first official event of the season.
Posted by Toyota Motorsport GmbH on Saturday, April 7, 2018
The TS050 HYBRID has already set new performance and efficiency standards, with last year’s fastest-ever Le Mans lap achieved using 35% less fuel compared to the team’s 2012 WEC debut. Advancements in powertrain technology contribute to race performance and production car technology.
Kinetic energy recovery is a key factor in achieving those improvements, with energy generated under braking harvested by powerful motor/generators on both axles and converted into electrical energy, which is deployed under acceleration to save fuel and deliver performance.
The 1,000 bhp hybrid electric powertrain has been modified to strengthen reliability but elsewhere, the car is largely the same as that which ended the 2017 season with 3 consecutive victories. Small but productive improvements to the aerodynamic package have been achieved within the strict homologation rules, while the 2018 car features a Gentex rearview camera, displayed on a screen inside the cockpit for the first time.
Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María Lopez will take on that challenge in the #7 TS050 HYBRID while Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima are joined by newcomer Fernando Alonso in the #8 car. Anthony Davidson continues to contribute in his role as Reserve and Development Driver.
“The car is amazing; something very special. The technology that the LMP1 hybrid cars have was unthinkable a few years ago. Thanks to the team, the performance should be there because they have the experience of Le Mans and WEC,” said Alonso. “I think I am in the right place with the right team. I’m very excited about this project. I cannot wait for June but I know before this big event I need to do testing, simulator work and the race at Spa because I need to respect Le Mans. I will be fit, prepared and ready.”