Toyota TS040 Hybrid - the only Japanese car with a World championship title
Since the World Championship for Sports Cars was inaugurated in 1953, the world’s competition for sports cars and prototypes changed its name and format a few times but remained the premium series for high-tech and state-of-the-art racing cars, together with its most famous race – the 24 hours of Le Mans. Many of those cars marked the motorsport history with unforgettable victories at Le Mans and multiple championship titles. In more than 60 years of competition, only one Japanese car earned the world championship title: it was the Toyota TS040 Hybrid in 2014.
Toyota TS040 Hybrid came as a racing replacement for TS030
Toyota TS040 Hybrid had a track debut in January 2014 as a successor of the TS030 Hybrid, which competed for the two previous seasons in the World Endurance Championship. The TS040 continued to use a naturally-aspirated 3.7-litre V8 engine with a supercapacitor system mounted on the rear axle which can store up to 6 megajoules of energy. Compared to the 2013 car, the new Toyota’s prototype had an additional supercapacitor system on the front axle to allow the car to use the temporary four-wheel drive.
Toyota had previously tested the four-wheel drive Supra HV-R, which became the first hybrid to win an endurance race: the 2007 Tokachi 24 Hours. Seven years later, the hybrid four-wheel drive system finally came to the World Championship.
The new prototype was more fuel-efficient
The big difference compared to the 2013 car was fuel economy. TS040 Hybrid has been developed specifically for the revised FIA WEC technical regulations, which required a 25% reduction in fuel usage. The savings could be achieved through powertrain, aerodynamics and driving style efficiencies. Fuel usage was monitored and penalties could be applied in the race if the three-lap average consumption exceeds defined limits. The fuel allowance is determined by the level of hybrid capacity each team commits to; Toyota has opted for 6MJ of hybrid capacity per lap of Le Mans.
480 + 520 = 1000 horsepowers
How does the hybrid system work? Under deceleration, the motor-generators apply braking force in combination with traditional mechanical brakes to harvest energy, which is transferred via inverter to the super-capacitor. During acceleration, the motor/generator reverses its function, acting as a motor to deliver a 480PS power boost. That four-wheel-drive hybrid power is added to a normally-aspirated V8 engine which produces 520 hp, so Toyota TS040 Hybrid has a maximum power of 1000 hp.
The chassis was developed by TMG
The TS040 Hybrid chassis is designed, developed, manufactured, and operated by Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG) in Germany. It was a major evolution on the TS030 Hybrid with the maximum width reduced by 10cm and a series of safety items introduced. Special attention has been paid to airflow around the car, both to reduce drag in order to improve fuel economy and to increase downforce and grip. Extensive development in TMG’s state-of-the-art wind tunnels has resulted in an aerodynamically-efficient design which is also incredibly lightweight thanks to the advanced composition.
Manufacturers’ and drivers’ world titles in 2014
For 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship, Toyota reshuffled its driver line-up: Alex Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima shared the #7 car while Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre, and Sebastien Buemi were in the #8. It was a good decision because the team had won both manufacturers’ and drivers’ world title in 2014. It was the first ever world championship title in the sports car racing for Toyota, and, in fact, for any Japanese manufacturer.
Toyota scored five wins in eight races
The season started with the 6 Hours of Silverstone and the sensational 1-2 victory for Toyota, against Audi (which also brought a new car) and Porsche (which returned to the championship). The #7 took pole position but the winning car was the #8 Toyota. Buemi, Davidson, and Lapierre repeated the triumph at the second round at Spa-Francorchamps. Toyotas had no luck at Le Mans and Audi took the victory.
Later in the season, Buemi and Davidson won two more races at Shanghai International Circuit and Fuji Speedway. The #7 crew finally won its first race in Bahrain. With five victories in eight races, Toyota claimed manufacturers’ title while Sebastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson were on the top of the drivers’ classification.
TS040 Hybrid was slightly upgraded in 2015
For the 2015 FIA WEC season, the new TS040 Hybrid race car was prepared. The new racer from Japan was an upgraded and lighter version of the 2014 model. Two championship titles were the proof of how the TS040 was a good car, so there wasn’t a need for big overhaul or change. The car featured a new front crash structure, new aerodynamic packages, and had lost a few pounds. The hybrid system and 3.7-liter V8 engine remained the same, with a maximum of 1000 hp.
No victories in second competitive season
The championship winning pair Buemi-Davidson gets the number 1 on their car, but they also get a new co-driver, Kazuki Nakajima. The #2 Toyota was driven by Sarrazin, Wurz, and Mike Conway. Toyota was far from the performance the team showed in 2014. Both cars scored only two podiums in the 2015 season, with a third place for #1 car at Silverstone and a third place for #2 car in Bahrain.
Toyota prepared a new car for the 2016 season
At the end of the 2015 season, Toyota was far behind Porsche and Audi in the manufacturers’ standings. In the drivers’ classification, five Toyota drivers collected the same amount of points to share the fifth place.
In 2015, the German rivals had more competitive cars, with two wins of Audi R18 eTron Quattro and six wins of Porsche 919 Hybrid, so the decision was made to prepare the new car for the 2016 season. Following the naming tradition, the next car was named TS050 Hybrid and it debuted at the first round of the 2016 FIA WEC.