Prius, Schmius. There’s one Toyota hybrid that’s relevant to our interests, and it’s the brand new Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 Hybrid Le Mans prototype. This is the third car Toyota has built for the World Endurance Championship’s top LMP1 class, and the car that carries the hopes for another season championship.
We already knew some key details about the 2016 TS050, such as Toyota’s move up to the most powerful 8-megajoule hybrid class of regulations. We’ve seen the livery reveal as well, which showed Toyota Gazoo Racing’s multi-motorsport corporate livery on a rendering of the TS040, plus some teaser shots of the car itself.
Now we know even more. The TS050 is powered by a 2.4-liter direct injection twin-turbo V6 petrol engine—perhaps larger than we expected given the talk of them following Porsche’s big-hybrid-tiny-engine lead, but that’s still downright itty bitty for a V6.
The move away from a V8 was mourned by several Toyota employees I’d spoken with because it sounded so cool, but given that the WEC LMP1 regulations stipulate that the 2016 TS050 uses less fuel per lap, it was the right choice.
Toyota General Manager of the Motor Sport Unit Development Division Hisatake Murata claims that the 2016 regulations reduce the TS050's energy consumption by about 7.5 percent, which is right in line with what Porsche and Audi have been saying. The turbocharged engine combined with the meatier hybrid system, Murata argues, will give them the increased torque they need to be competitive again.
The team also claims that this direct-injected turbo V6 will have more relevance to their road cars, too. Toyota stressed the relevance to their road cars when mentioning that front and rear generators on the TS050 capture energy under braking, which is then stored in a lithium-ion battery to release whenever the car needs to get back on the power.
Like Audi, they’ve traded in their supercapacitor-based energy storage for big, powerful batteries this year, as Porsche proved by winning the championship in 2015 that it’s the best way to go.
Now if only we’d get a sleek lightweight wing in place of that heavy glass hatch on the Prius, and perhaps a few hundred more horsepower that isn’t all fed to the front wheels, too. Get crackin’ on that, Toyota.
Make no bones about it: the TS050 is an all-new ground-up race car build centered around its new source of power. The transmission has been beefed up to handle the additional torque of the TS050's turbocharged powerplant. The suspension has been redesigned to be easier on tires—a must when turbo and electric torque constantly want to nuke said tires into oblivion.
Furthermore, the front motor generator for the hybrid system has been relocated for better underfloor airflow. The entire aerodynamic structure of the front of the car has changed significantly and was optimized for more downforce to keep the TS050 truly grounded to the ground.
Is this the right car to take Toyota back to the podium in 2016? Here’s a better look at the car so you can decide for yourself.
Photo credits: Toyota Gazoo Racing