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Folks once scoffed at the idea of a hybrid race car, but with Toyota announcing its TS030 Hybrid car for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Porsche already well on the hybrid race car bandwagon, it might not be too much of a stretch to believe these rumors that the Ferrari-powered, Pininfarina-designed P4/5 Competizione is going green.
Reports from Europe are coming in that the GT prototype is looking to make a return to the Nürburgring VLN series with a hybrid powertrain. It appears that the hybrid system will be provided by Magneti Marelli and will be similar to the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) that was developed for Scuderia Ferrari in F1.
We’re sure the primary source of power will still come from the 4.0L V8 powerplant, but the addition of an electric motor will definitely help the P4/5 Competizione compete on the Nürburgring where reliability is sometimes more important than power.
The dominating diesels will have a fuel economy foe at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, thanks to a new hybrid race car from Toyota. Set to compete in the top-tier LMP1 class later this year, the first photos of the hybrid electric drive prototype have hit the net, thanks to a tweet by Toyota UK PR boss Scott Brownlee.
No details have yet been provided on the powertrain, but it’s expected the car will utilize a generous hybrid drivetrain that will not only add power but also supplement power through regenerative braking, allowing the car to drive further with fewer pit stops – the strategy that has allowed diesels from Audi and Peugeot to block out all the top podium spots in endurance racing.
Running the racing operation for Toyota will be ORECA Racing, a team that has been racing at Le Mans for 35 years and which has achieved a first place finish in every category it has ever competed in.
Toyota’s three-man team scheduled to pilot the new hybrid racer at this year’s endurance classic includes 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Alex Wurz, last year’s 12 Hour of Sebring winner Nicolas Lapierre and former F1 pilot Kazuki Nakajima.
GALLERY: Toyota Hybrid Le Mans Race Car
Racing a Prius might sound like the start of a joke, until you see this. Unveiled at the Tokyo Auto Salon in Japan, this Toyota Prius is fully prepped and sporting its race livery. Significantly wider and lower than a factor model, this Prius is designed to compete in Japan’s Super GT racing series starting this year.
Regulations in the series are loose, so there’s little left of the original Prius here, although the original’s sleek aerodynamic shape is still obvious. Also of note is that the car appears to retain a hybrid drivetrain with the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive logo on the back. Another hint is the massive sponsorship by Panasonic, which supplies the batteries for the road car.
Exactly how this hybrid racer will do remains to be seen and we’ll have to wait for the first round of the Super GT series in March to find out.
GALLERY: Toyota Prius Race Car
In the world of motorsports, it’s nearly impossible for a new team to come out of the box and be competitive. So what is a novice group that is looking for success to do? Simple, partner with one of the most successful teams in the sport.
That is exactly what Toyota is doing by partnering up with ORECA Racing Group to take victory at the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Toyota has attempted a win at Le Mans before, but that very expensive effort bared no fruit. Having learned that they need help, the Japanese automaker has gone on to recruit the French team ORECA Racing, which has been competing at Le Mans for the past 35-years and have achieved the top podium step in each form of racing it has ever competed in.
At the announcement of this partnership, ORECA Racing’s President Hugues de Chaunac said; “It’s a very big day for ORECA. To be chosen by Toyota Motorsport GmbH is a huge reward for the work we’ve done in recent years. ORECA has proven its worth at the highest level of endurance racing, winning the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2011 and finishing three straight times in the top 5 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Thanks to its know-how, ORECA now has the opportunity to work with the biggest automobile manufacturer, and on a project that’s particularly interesting. We are proud to support Toyota Motorsport GmbH in this challenge and we’re looking forward to an exciting future.”
Toyota will provide the new hybrid-racing powertrain, while ORECA develops a new chassis to compete in the LMP1 class. Next year’s Le Mans will be the 80th installment of this race and will be held on June 16-17.
The only Japanese manufacturer to ever win the prestigious 24-Hours of Le Mans so far has been Mazda with its 787B. Toyota has been wanting to change that for nearly two decades now. Their last effort in the LMP1 class failed, but next year they’ll be back with a vengeance, using a hybrid racer.
Not that the French will make it any easier on the Japanese, as Peugeot has just put some testing miles on their new race car, the 908 HYbrid4. First shown at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show in March, this new race car just completed its first test at the Estoril circuit in Portugal on October 11th. The car went through 300 km of testing in the hands of Nicolas Minassian, Stephane Sarrazin and former Formula 1 driver Alex Wurz.
Peugeot Sports technical director Bruno Famin said, “Our aim wasn’t to put a lot of kilometres on the clock, but to verify that all the chief functions performed.” He added, “It was important to analyse the data of each run to be sure we understood the results before moving on to the next step. The system functioned well and responded as predicted, which was very satisfying. At the same time, we started to make a few adjustments to the car’s basic set-up. It worked well, so that’s very positive.”
Peugeot has been working on the 908 HYbrid since 2008 and the car is only now coming close to becoming a reality. However, Peugeot is not the only European car company trying to compete with a hybrid racer, as Porsche is also aiming to enter with not only their 911 GT3 R Hybrid, but also the 918 Hybrid race car.
The world’s greenest race car has been banned from racing—for being too fast.
God forbid. Like the great race cars of history, kneecapped for being too dominant, the Oaktec Honda Insight joins the Porsche 917 and Brabham BT46 as one of the quick yet misunderstood motorsport legends.
Developed for Formula 1000 rallying, the hybrid Insight race car was tuned to get 100mpg when pushed slowly, and 82mpg at a quicker pace. Formula 1000 emphasizes mileage as well as speed, and the Insight was regularly beating the next-best car, a diesel, by over 17mpg. Overall, it has dominated the current 2011 series with two wins and a second place in just the first three rounds. This, competitors whined, was an unfair advantage.
“It was a bit of a shock when I got the call as after six years of hard work we finally had our chance for a bit of glory,” said Paul Andrews, Oaktec boss. “But I fully understand the perspective of the organisers and their wish not to spoil the sport for the other drivers. It’s a shame it had to happen mid-season but it’s the risk you face in going against the grain and trying something radical. If it fails, no one notices; if it’s successful, you have an unfair advantage.”
The team is now looking to race in a class above, where the competition hopefully won’t be so quick to cry foul.
Whether you know Ken Block from his infamous Gymkhana videos, or his other antics, there’s no denying his penchant for causing a stir among automotive enthusiast. And this time he got a lot of people’s attention simply by posting a photo on his Facebook profile and adding this as its caption: “Testing one of my ‘secret projects’ in the UK right now, the “Hybrid”. Who says the word “hybrid” has to mean boring?”
Now there’s no doubt in anyone’s minds that every automotive manufacturer developing hybrids right now want to push the technology and platform to the general consumer. So does this mean that Ford is working with Block to promote a Fiesta hybrid? Or maybe Ken’s definition of a hybrid is shoving in the STi’s powerplant under the hood of a Ford Fiesta. We’re sure it’s just a matter of time before Block reveals “The Hybrid” in its full glory.
[Source: Ken Block's Facebook]