TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will challenge for a third consecutive victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours as it targets a perfect final appearance at the Circuit de la Sarthe with its history-making TS050 HYBRID, in the 88th edition of the legendary French race.
The 1,000PS, four-wheel-drive TS050 HYBRID came within two laps of victory on its 2016 debut before winning back-to-back Le Mans in 2018-2019. Now it takes on the challenge one last time at the end of the LMP1 era, aiming for a hat-trick which would see TOYOTA GAZOO Racing take permanent possession of the current winners’ trophy.
As well as earning its place in the history books as TOYOTA’s first Le Mans winner and the fastest car ever on the Circuit de la Sarthe courtesy of Kamui Kobayashi’s pole position lap in 2017, the TS050 HYBRID has set new standards in terms of efficiency.
An impressive 60% of braking energy is recovered, delivering around 3000MJ of hybrid boost over the course of the 24 hours, which represents an increase of 150% since 2012. In parallel, fuel consumption has been reduced by 35% from 2012 to 2019 while lap times improved by around 10 seconds per lap in the same period.
Two TS050 HYBRIDs will fight against four other LMP1 machines in the 60-car grid, with the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) titles in the balance as well.
Le Mans is the penultimate round of the 2019-2020 WEC season and the #7 TS050 HYBRID crew of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, who won last month at Spa, lead the standings by 12 points. Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, winners at Le Mans for the last two years, and team-mate Brendon Hartley, are second, with 51 points available next weekend.
This year marks only the fourth time in its 97-year history the Le Mans 24 Hours has been scheduled outside of June; the very first race in 1923 was in May while the 1956 edition was held in July and domestic issues in France forced the 1968 contest to take place in September. It is, however, the first time that no spectators are permitted to enter the circuit, depriving the event of a unique atmosphere generated by over 250,000 passionate endurance racing fans.
That is not the only break with tradition at Le Mans this year; the popular city centre scrutineering and drivers’ parade activities will not take place, while the track action runs to a revised timetable. Almost 11 hours of practice and qualifying are scheduled for Thursday 17 September in what promises to be a gruelling day for drivers and team members. Following a one-hour practice on Friday morning, the starting grid will be determined by the new hyperpole session, which sees the top six cars from each class battle for pole position.
TOYOTA will be chasing its sixth pole position, and fourth in succession, to move level in the all-time records list with Peugeot in third place and earn the ideal starting spot for Saturday’s race, which begins at 2.30pm and will run in darkness for almost half of the 24 hours.
Hisatake Murata, Team President: “The Le Mans 24 Hours is the highlight of our year; it is the main target and always the biggest challenge. We are proud to be preparing for this race as two-time winners and we are giving everything to win a third consecutive Le Mans.
Our team members in Japan and Germany have worked flat-out together, as one team, to achieve our dream and this spirit of one for all, all for one is so important to meet the special challenge of Le Mans. Normally we look forward to sharing this challenge with the fans at the circuit, who create a unique atmosphere with their passion for endurance racing.
We will miss them this year, so it will be a very unusual edition but we are grateful to the ACO for overcoming the difficult circumstances and giving us the opportunity to share the spirit of Le Mans once again. Although they cannot join us at the track, I hope we can be part of a Le Mans 24 Hours to remember for all the fans at home.”
Source: automobilsport.com Image: Toyota