2012 Toyota TS030 Le Mans PrototypeEnlarge Photo
Resplendent in its new 'hybrid-blue' color scheme, Toyota's hybrid entry into this year's Le Mans 24 Hours has made a successful debut in testing.
Toyota tested a pair of its TS030 Le Mans Prototypes at the Le Mans circuit. The #7 car of Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima completed the most laps with 83, while the #8 car of Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi had its first run, managing 73 laps.
The TS030's hybrid system pairs a 3.4-liter V-8 gasoline engine with a capacitor-based hybrid drivetrain, both sending power to, and recovering energy via the rear wheels.
The hybrid capability also allows the TS030 to run entirely on electricity in some scenarios, just like the firm's 4-million hybrid road cars. At lower speeds, such as driving in the pit lane, the car will produce little noise and zero emissions.
Toyota has worked particularly hard to develop a system that works well in a racing scenario. Hisatake Murata, Hybrid Project Leader, described the improvements made in a Toyota press release.
"We are continuously adjusting and improving the system, so each test day brings a step forward and that was true again today. The combination of downshifting, braking and charging is really working in harmony; it’s like an elaborate dance."
While the 73 and 83-lap stints completed by the drivers don't represent the huge distances driven in the full 24 hours, all the drivers were positive after the car's first run on the historic circuit.
Toyota's main rival at Le Mans this year is likely to be multiple winners Audi, also fielding a hybrid vehicle, albeit one mainly powered by diesel.