Toyota is making some changes to its TS030 Hybrid racecar for the 2013 season. The car debuted last year, marking Toyota’s return to world sports car racing and showcasing the Japanese manufacturer’s hybrid technology. Toyota plans to return to the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, where the TS030 had a fairly unlucky outing last year.
The TS030 might be a hybrid, but it’s not a Prius. It packs a 3.4-liter V8 with 530 horsepower. A “super-capacitor” system can deliver an extra burst of 300 hp from an electric motor, which gets its electricity from energy recovered during braking.
Toyota says it modified the powertrain and chassis to increase efficiency and reliability, and to comply with impending rule changes, which will increase the minimum weight of cars in the TS030’s class by 33 pounds.
The TS030 will continue to race in the top LMP1 class against diesel hybrids from Audi. Lats year, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro took the win at Le Mans, and it looks like this year will be a rematch.
At the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans, the No.8 Toyota was taken out in a spectacular crash, which left driver Anthony Davidson hospitalized. The No.7 car was unable to finish due to mechanical issues. It was Toyota’s first official appearance at Le Mans since 1999.
The TS030 went on to race five more times in 2012, taking the top spot at Sao Paulo, Fuji, and Shanghai.
Hybrids give racers a few advantages on the track. Like in the real world, the use less fuel. Fuel consumption is very important in endurance racing, where finishing the race is sometimes harder than putting in the fastest lap time.
The instantly available low end torque of an electric motor also allows the cars to accelerate more quickly out of corners. Unlike a gasoline or diesel engine, and electric motor produces all of its power no matter how fast (or slow) it’s turning.
The phrase “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” also comes to mind, although you can’t walk into a showroom and buy anything remotely like a Le Mans racer. Rather, the TS030 demonstrates Toyota’s commitment to hybrids, and makes a much more exciting poster child than a Prius.
Look for the updated Toyota TS030 Hybrid at the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans, and at other races in the FIA World Endurance Championship.