Faster, better, and more powerful, the Toyota TS040 Hybrid race car is ready to do battle with Audi and Porsche on the Circuit de la Sarthe for the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans. Making just shy of 1,000 horsepower with its small V8 and hybrid drivetrain, could this be the year Toyota unseats Audi’s domination of the world’s oldest endurance motor race?
The Toyota TS040 is all-around an improvement over the car it replaces, the TS030, which debuted back in 2012. The 3.7 liter V8 engine is rated at a whopping 513 horsepower, while electric motors fitted to both the front and rear axles provide an addition 473 horsepower, for a combined output of 986 horsepower. That’s a lotta powah, as Toyota has opted to stick with a naturally-aspirated V8 this year over competing designs, like the Porsche turbo four-banger and the championship-winning Audi turbodiesel V6.
Toyota can do this thanks to a change in rules that regulates the flow of fuel and use of energy, rather than power output, which was regulated in previous years. This is promoting a lot of diversity within the competitors, and Toyota is defnitely going down a different route. The TS040 uses supercapacitors instead of batteries or flywheels, allowing the hybrid race car to fully recharge after just a few second of braking, and discharge the stored energy in a snap.
A lot of focus went into improving the aerodynamics of the TS040 as well, improving handling, fuel economy, and downforce, that invisible hand pushing race cars into the ground rather than soaring into the sky.
This years Le Mans is shaping up to be one of the most interesting endurance races in decades, as dueling automakers and technologies take to the track in an effort to prove their worth. Toyota’s TS040 makes a compelling case for victory, and we’ll see in a few short months if it has the chops to dethrone Audi.