Is this finally Toyota’s year at Le Mans?

June 16, 2018

Is this finally Toyota’s year at Le Mans?

June 16, 2018

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s entry into the FIA World Endurance Championship since 2012 has featured 17 victories and a championship in 2014.

Yet there is one result that has consistently eluded Toyota: a win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Whether by lack of pace, occasionally bizarre occurrences or pure heartbreak, Toyota has been denied winning this race overall.

They stand their best ever chance to do so as the sole remaining factory hybrid entry in the FIA WEC’s LMP1 class. Further regulatory elements – namely a system called Equivalence of Technology, or EoT – are also in place to aid Toyota’s presence as the outright fastest car in class.

Although EoT has been in place since 2014, its magnitude at Le Mans likely won’t be as pronounced as it will this year. This is a system that is meant to ensure a level playing field between factory and privateer cars. This is determined by weight, aerodynamics, engine types and fuel allocation (flow rate and allowance per lap). A full Q&A with ACO Technical Delegate Thierry Bouvet about EoT is linked here.

However, based on the findings and data the race organizers have, a hybrid is able to do one lap more per stint than non-hybrid. This will be 11 laps, at Toyota’s 35.1kg of fuel per stint, versus 10 laps for the non-hybrids which are 45kg lighter.

In layman’s terms, this means Toyota should have both an outright pace advantage over its non-hybrid competitors, and also be able to run longer per stint, every stint. Extrapolate that over 24 hours, and you can figure out Toyota’s potential.

But as Toyota knows all too well, having the fastest car means nothing without reliability. The most crushing of losses occurred in 2016. Then, a sudden loss of power within the final 10 minutes  caused the No. 5 car to retire from an unassailable lead.

A team statement explained the cause: “Car #5 suffered a technical defect on a connector on the air line between the turbo charger and the intercooler, causing a loss of turbo charger control. The team attempted to modify the control settings to restore power and this was eventually achieved, allowing the car to complete the final lap. However, it was achieved too late to complete that lap within the required six minutes.”

Toyota will go into this year’s Le Mans with all the attention and focus on them in pursuit of overall victory.

However if either the No. 7 or No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrids stumble, a potential upset is there for the taking by the privateers.

Toyota has the trio of Fernando Alonso, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi in the No. 8 car. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez share the No. 7 car.

“It is always exciting to go to Le Mans and this year we are particularly looking forward to the race,” said Hisatake Murata, Team President.

“Following the big disappointments of 2016 and 2017 at Le Mans, we have prepared more thoroughly than ever before and our priority is to reach the checkered flag without trouble.

“But we know from the past that many things can happen at Le Mans and we will need to show our team spirit to overcome the many difficulties of this event.

“I am confident that our team is united and ready for this challenge and will never give up on our target; we will do everything we can to stand in the middle of the podium on Sunday afternoon. I hope we can give the fans a race to remember as well.”

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