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Forget the 24 Hours of Le Mans, or even the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, 2013 will mark the inaugural running of the world’s longest racer, the Maxi Endurance 24 Hour race.
The German automaker announced today that it will run two hybrid LMP1 cars for the first time in their team of four during the 24 hours of Le Mans.
Details were scarce in the release, but we know that the cars will be officially released at the end of the month. Their first race debut will follow on May 5 at the 6 hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
Despite running the hybrid cars, Audi isn’t relying on them. Instead the R18 TDI that raced last year will remain the staple.
“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,” head of Audi Motorsport Wolfgang Ullrich said.
It seems that the engineers at Audi are putting some stock in Toyota’s strategy because developing and running those cars is no small feat.
“To develop the hybrid technology for Le Mans is at least as ambitious and challenging as our diesel project was in its early stages,” Ullrich said.
Audi won 10 of the total Le Mans races since 2000, so the fact that they’re putting money into a hybrid LMP1 means there’s probably something significant to be gained.
You might be familiar with the sound a Le Mans car makes while whipping around the track, but this year Toyota is going to change all that.
For the first time in more than a decade, the Japanese giant is entering in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, set to start this June. Yesterday we reported a story revealing some of the mechanical details behind the TS030 hybrid, Toyota’s strategic play to work back into the Le Mans good books.
The hybrid, they hope, will trump the diesel competition this year. Their car will feature a 3.4-liter naturally-aspirated V8 paired with Toyota’s hybrid drivetrain, which will take advantage of a capacitor system instead of the lithium ion batteries found in production cars.
Until today we had only seen still photos and ready specs, but thanks to a fresh post on YouTube, we get a chance to hear what the car sounds like on the road. You don’t see or hear anything interesting for the first 30 seconds of the video, but it ends with the TS030 Hybrid turning onto the track and launching. As you probably imagine, the difference between the electric motors and the V8 is striking. You can watch the video below.
GALLERY: Toyota TS030 Hybrid
Toyota spilled more details on Tuesday of its plan to run a hybrid at the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
Last week we reported that the Japanese automaker would be entering such a vehicle, but there were no details on the powertrain or the plan surrounding the car itself. That changed when the company issued a release detailing their plans to run not one, but two of their hybrid contenders in the Le Mans for the first time in more than a decade.
The first of the two cars will make its race debut at the Six Hours of Spa race in May. Perhaps the most interesting information to come from Toyota today are the details behind their hybrid LMP1 entry.
It will sport a 3.4-liter normally-aspirated V8, paired with a capacitor system instead of batteries, which will store energy through the car’s regenerative braking system. Essentially, that means the hybrid will store power while slowing down and use it for a significant acceleration boost while returning to speed.
The car will also benefit from a new carbon fiber LMP1 chassis that was developed and assembled at Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) in Cologne, Germany.
Toyota will not, however, compete in all the FIA races. Instead, they want to use those they participate in to build up a strong racing platform for the future.
“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. Our target this year is to show the performance level of our car and particularly the THS-R powertrain,” Yoshiaki Kinoshita, racing team president, said.
The decision hasn’t been made about who will man the second car, but we do know that the first car’s team includes 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Alex Wurz, last year’s 12 Hour of Sebring winner Nicolas Lapierre and former F1 driver Kazuki Nakajima.
GALLERY: TS030 Hybrid
Porsche has put to motion an international Youth Development Programme to foster young drivers as the German automaker prepares an expansion of its racing involvement and its entry into the LMP1 class at Le Mans for 2014.
Beginning with the coming 2012 racing season, two young drivers will receive the title “Porsche Juniors” and will receive Porsche support in the Carrera Cup Deutschland series. Porsche will provide these young talents with a large portion of the season’s budget and will allow them to choose a team to work with. In addition, a Junior Coach will assist the two drivers with their physical training outside the circuit as well as mentoring within.
If the young drivers deliver results, they will advance to the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup series, the fastest international one-make series, for their second year. On top of financial support, the sophomores will receive fitness testing with constantly adapting training plans plus media training to fulfill sponsor obligations. Also, Porsche will select new Porsche Junior prospectives to fill in the newly vacated spot in the Carrera Cup Deutschland.
According to Hartmut Kristen, the Head of Porsche Motorsport, “With our long term Youth Development Programme, we continue the extremely successful tradition of the Porsche Junior Team. For us, supporting talented youngsters is an investment in the future. In line with our LMP1 project, we want to expand our driver lineup. After all, aside from our works commitment in prototype racing, we don’t want to neglect our GT racing activities and we also want to support our customer teams with works drivers in the future.”
Heavily involved with supporting young drivers since 1997, Porsche Junior alums include Timo Bernhard, Marc Lieb and Patrick Long. Time will tell whether Porsche will find its Le Mans winning driver for its 2014 return.