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With the recent announcement by Audi that it will enter a hybrid diesel R18 race car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this season, Toyota is not going to have an easy time trying to take the checkered flag.
That said, the Japanese automaker has been rigorously testing its entry, the TS030, a gasoline electric prototype designed to showcase Toyota’s leadership in hybrid technology.
In addition to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Toyota has announced it will also compete with the car in the World Endurance Championship series.
For a behind the scenes look at testing of the TS030 watch the video below:
Toyota has announced its three-man tea of pro racers, who will pilot the brand’s hybrid LMP1 car in the 2012 Le Mans and other races. The list includes former F1 driver and winner of the 2009 24 Hours of Le mans (under Peugeot) Alex Wurz, Team Oreca pilot and last year’s 12 Hours of Sebring winner Nicolas Lapierra and former F1 racer Kaxuki Nakakima.
“I can’t wait to get started and I am fascinated by the new challenge of competing with a hybrid car. It is the future of racing so I am very excited that Toyota comes in with this technology,” said Alex Wurz, one of Toyota’s new drivers.
He, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakakima will start training early in the new year, though it already sounds like their team spirit is coming together.
“Alex is a two-time Le Mans winner so he is a great benchmark for us, but he is also able to build a strong team spirit. I believe the choice of drivers is very good and I am looking forward to working together as a team,” Lapierre said in a press release.
While Wurz brings Le Mans experience to the table, all three drivers are familiar with World Endurance Championship racing.
“Le Mans will be a new experience for me but it is one that I am very much looking forward to. The challenge of Le Mans is famous throughout motorspot so I can’t wait to race there for the first time. Obviously it is a new experience but I am familiar with endurance racing thanks to my time in Japanese Super GT and this will help me to adjust,” Nakajima said.
Today’s announcement comes after Toyota telling the press late last month that they plan to partner with ORECA Racing Group in developing their new hybrid LMP1 class car.
The decision came after Toyota’s previous solo endeavor at Le Mans failed. Toyota hopes for more success after pairing with championship-winning ORECA. Toyota will contribute the hybrid powertrain while ORECA plans to develop the chassis for their 2012 entrant.
When Porsche returns to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in search of its 17th overall victory in 2014 the famed German sports car maker could rely on hybrid power to do so admits motorsports boss Hartmut Kristen.
Commenting in a release issued by Porsche on its return to the top-tier of sports car racing and the future of the program, Kristen said that, “the integration of our hybrid technology in the vehicle concept is one possible option.” Kristen is cautions, however, admitting that the entire plan would rely on exactly what the rules allow, but you can be certain Porsche is already lobbying the sport’s governing body.
Currently the LMP1 class is dominated by Audi’s R18 diesel race cars, with the only serious rivals coming from Peugeot with diesel technology as well. The reason for their success is fuel economy, with the diesels taking fewer pit stops to refuel. Porsche has already proven with its GT3 R Hybrid race car that it can achieve similar success using hybrid technology, taking the overall win in round four of the Nürburgring Long Distance Championship by requiring one fewer pit stop than the rest of the field. the GT3 R Hybrid uses a modified version of the original GT3 R hybrid powertrain, making 470-hp from a naturally aspirated six-cylinder boxer engine, with an additional 200-hp of electric boost available on demand.
Baring a miracle breakthrough in internal combustion engine technology between now and 2014, look for Porsche to take to the the LMP1 class with a hybrid race car.
Perhaps the bigger question would then be who Porsche will compete against. While Audi is the dominant force in the series right now it’s unlikely the two will square off on the track, considering they are both owned by Volkswagen. Does Porsche’s LMP1 success depend on the end of the Audi program?
Porsche has announced that it will enter the 911 GT3R Hybrid race car in the famed Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta on October 2nd.
Porsche feels sufficiently confident with the hybrids fuel economy and performance gains that they are interesting in campaigning in the Petit Le Mans, and the ALMS series, should their jaunt at Road Atlanta go well. Since the Automobile Club de ‘Ouest, the sanctioning body that oversees LeMans, hasn’t drawn up any rules for hybrid race cars, the GT3R will go unclassified for now.
Road Atlanta will be the first race in a few series called the LeMans Intercontinental Cup. The GT3R will also appear at the race in Zuhai, China, but hasn’t confirmed that the car will appear at Silverstone for the European round later on.
Gallery: Porsche 911 GT3R Hybrid
Hit the jump to read the official press release
Audi‘s podium sweep at this years 24 Hours of Le Mans might just be the last time diesels dominate the series. The Automobile Club de L’Ouest (ACO), which runs the endurance classic, has announced rule changes for next year’s season that will see the elimination of the GT1 Class and changes to the LMP2 class, with all three levels allowing teams to run hybrid powertrains.
In 2009 Corsa Motorsports ran a hybrid LMP1 racer while the ACO monitored the car and now teams who wish to compete with hybrid power will be able to. The change of rules likely came with pressure from Porsche, which displayed its GT3 R Hybrid at this year’s Le Mans race but which wasn’t allowed to race. Porsche recently proved the capability of the car at the Nürburgring 24 Hour Race after leading the race outright for eight hours before an engine failure caused the team to retire.
Additional rule changes for the combined LMP class include a maximum engine size that is limited to 3.4-liters for naturally aspirated powerplants and 2.0-liters for turbocharged units, regardless of whether they are gasoline or diesel.
It is expected that the new ACO rules will be adopted by the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) for next year.
[Source: SPEED TV]