The Toyota Le Mans Prototype race car, designated the TS040 Hybrid LMP1, will look very much like the 2014 entry that won 5 of the 8 races last year and the overall championship. Internally, the car will be virtually the same, with a naturally aspirated V-8 engine that cranks out 513 horsepower. Two electric motors, one at the rear of the car and one driving the front wheels, add another 473 horsepower, bringing the total to a whopping 986 horses pulling and pushing the car around the track.
The cars will carry numbers 1 and 2 in this year’s series. Car #1 will be driven by Anthony Davidson and former Formula One driver Sébastien Buemi, who jointly claimed the 2014 Drivers’ title. The third driver is Kazui Nakajima. Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway will share duties in the #2 car.
“Based on our experiences in 2014, we have decided to modify the [driver] lineups for each car and we believe this will give us the optimum overall performance as the individual driving styles are now well matched,” Toyota Motorsport chief Yoshiaki Kinoshita said in a statement. “All our drivers are WEC race winners and we are confident they will add to their tally this season and in the future.”
Le Mans regulations encourage innovative drivetrains. Toyota will a face off against a team from Audi, which uses a turbocharged V-6 diesel engine, and one from Porsche, which employs a turbocharged V-4 gasoline engine. Meanwhile, Nissan is poised to enter the fray with an unusual front engine, front wheel drive GTR race car. Each combination offers its own mix of fuel economy and power. But the key to Le Mans racing is reliability. It will be interesting to see during the course of 2015 which cars are fast and which are still running at the checkered flag.