Toyota’s new Le Mans car has 500kW at the rear wheels and 200kW at the front. Picture: SUPPLIED
Toyota’s new Le Mans car has 500kW at the rear wheels and 200kW at the front. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGR) team has unveiled its challenger for the Le Mans 2021 season, the GR010 Hybrid.

It is the racing version of Toyota’s upcoming hypercar road car, and the company hopes the new car will allow it to defend its Le Mans and World Endurance Championship (WEC) titles, which it won with the old TS050 Hybrid racer. 

The striking new look of the racing prototype reflects the appearance of its inspiration, the GR Super Sport hypercar, which made its public debut with a demonstration run at the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours and is currently in development.

The GR010 Hybrid prototype racer uses a powerful four-wheel-drive racing hybrid powertrain, with a 3.5l V6 twin-turbo engine, providing 500kW to the rear wheels and combining with a 200kW motor generator unit on the front axle.

The new car differs from the previous model by being larger and 162kg heavier with 32% less power, and is expected to be about 10 seconds a lap slower around Le Mans than the old racer.

Le Mans Prototype (LMP1 & 2) cars were bespoke prototypes while the new Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) class can either be competition-spec versions of road-going hyper cars, or specially designed prototypes with the hybrid power of a single energy-retrieval unit on the front axle.

TGR president Hisatake Murata is optimistic about the task that lies ahead, commenting that “WEC participation under the new Racing Hybrid branding would enhance Toyota’s understanding of hypercar technology and help deliver more exciting sports cars to customers”.

The 2021 championship has a somewhat hollow ring to it as Toyota will be the only big manufacturer team, but 2022 will see Audi rejoin the fray after exiting DTM and Formula E racing. It last participated in the LMP1 class in 2016 after 14 years of dominance, making it the second most successful manufacturer in Le Mans history after sister brand Porsche.

“We are intensively preparing to enter the new sports prototype category LMDh with its highlight races, the Daytona 24 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours,” said Julius Seebach, MD of Audi Sport. This should liven things up.

LMDh will be used as the top class of the FIA World Endurance Championship, alongside the Le Mans Hypercars, and will also serve as the top class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Porsche and Peugeot are also set to join the LMH class of the WEC series in 2022 or 2023.

The 2021 WEC begins with the 1000 Miles of Sebring on March 19, prior to the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on May 1 and the season highlight, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, on June 12 and 13.

The first world championship endurance race in Monza since 1992 takes place on July 18 before trips to Fuji Speedway on September 26 and Bahrain on November 20, all of which are six-hour contests.

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