What the TS040 lacks in outright drama, it clearly makes up for with outstanding engineering and bulletproof reliability. Le Mans 2014 was one of the three World Endurance Championship races that the TS040 Hybrid did not win — but the team cleaned up by going 5 in 8 overall during the 2014 season.
This dominance was enough to score Toyota the World Championship titles for the car as well as its drivers — which is certainly an impressive feat.
The newly-renamed Toyota Gazoo Racing team wants to keep the winning glory in this 2015 season with the ultimate crowning achievement: an overall win at Le Mans.
The field is even more competitive this year, however, with revised rules and revised rivals from Porsche and Audi. Nissan also joins the LMP1 fray for the first time in two decades.
So how is the TS040 Hybrid updated from 2014? The usual cryptic info release keeps the car’s secrets close to the vest, but we do know a few things:
— two aero packages are all-new for this year, with one optimized specifically for Le Sarthe and its high-speed sections, and the other a higher-downforce setup for tighter tracks like Silverstone.
— a new nose design with improved crash structures
— much more power from the Hybrid components, now delivering 1000-plus horsepower
— new suspension kinematics to optimize grip as well as tire usage
Are more championships and perhaps even a LeMans victory in the cars for the TS040 this year? Just two weeks til the big race, when the whole world will find out together!
LeMans 2015 – Toyota TS040 Hybrid
TOYOTA Racing enters the 2015 World Endurance Championship ready to start a new era with the defence of its two titles.
TOYOTA became the first Japanese company to win the World Championship during a very successful 2014 season, which saw Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi also win the drivers’ title.
In a period where energy efficiency is a key performance factor, the TS040 HYBRID proved to be the class of the field, taking five wins from eight races.
The championship-winning car has been updated for 2015, with updated aerodynamics, revised front end including crash structure and new suspension kinematics to optimize tyre usage, plus additional weight saving.
The TS040 HYBRID will again benefit from the proven TOYOTA HYBRID System – Racing powertrain, which boasts excellent thermal efficiency and delivers a total maximum power of over 1,000PS.
As with last season, the TS040 HYBRID will compete within the 6MJ hybrid category with enhancements, such as modifications to the super capacitor construction to increase performance.
The team has prepared two different aerodynamic packages for this season, both of which will be tested at Paul Ricard this week. The Le Mans option is better suited to the high-speed La Sarthe track while the sprint package generates higher levels of downforce due to revisions on the rear wing, engine cover and front bodywork.
Development began directly after last year’s Le Mans 24 Hours and the updated car was tested for the first time on 13 January at Paul Ricard. Further three-day tests at Motorland Aragon (twice) and Portimao mean the 2015 TS040 HYBRID has completed over 25,000km prior to today’s official launch.
Inside the cockpit, the #1 TS040 HYBRID will feature World Champions Anthony and Sébastien alongside Kazuki Nakajima, who is planned to compete in a full WEC season for the first time.
In the #2 car, Alex Wurz and Stéphane Sarrazin are joined by Mike Conway, who raced three times in 2014 in his role as test and reserve driver, winning the Six Hours of Bahrain.
Kamui Kobayashi, who previously drove for TOYOTA in Formula 1 and finished sixth in its final Grand Prix, becomes test and reserve driver. Kamui will combine his role with a Super Formula campaign in Japan, while Nicolas steps back following three seasons in the race crew. He will be available for testing and development duties throughout the season.
The Cologne-based team is also preparing for another change, with TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH (TMG) President Yoshiaki Kinoshita returning to Japan in April as is normal practice for TOYOTA executives.
After securing the long-term future of the WEC project, winning the World Championship and sealing a World Rally Championship return, his mission at TMG is complete and he will depart after the Six Hours of Silverstone.
Everyone at TMG thanks Kinoshita san sincerely for his immense contribution to the company and its motorsport history.
Toshio Sato will take over as TMG and Team President from 1 April. He returns to TMG after several years as a senior engine engineer during the F1 project and brings vast experience of hybrid technology, having previously been responsible for TOYOTA and LEXUS hybrid system development.
As well as changes in personnel and technology, TOYOTA Racing has also adapted to revised regulations for 2015.
Teams are now limited to a maximum of five engines per car for the entire season, although none of the team’s cars exceeded this limit in any of the previous three seasons. Additional limits apply to tyre usage, with four sets of slicks allowed during practice and six for qualifying and the race, except in Bahrain and Shanghai where eight sets are permitted, with 11 sets permitted during the Le Mans race.
Flexibility limits have been introduced for bodywork items such as the splitter, the rear wing, diffuser and plank, while the car is now subject to added ballast when, as is the case with the #1 and #2 crews, the average driver weight is less than 80kg.
Those new regulations will apply when the season kicks off at Silverstone on 12 April, followed by Spa-Francorchamps on 2 May. The Le Mans 24 Hours is the annual highlight on 14 June while Nürburgring (30 August) is a new addition. The eight-race campaign concludes with races in Austin (19 September), Fuji Speedway (11 October), Shanghai (1 November) and Bahrain (21 November).
Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President: “Personally, I am sad to be leaving TMG and our motorsport projects, but I will watch the races very closely and support the team whenever I can. I would like to thank the whole WEC community for the support and encouragement they have given since we joined in 2012; we are proud to be part of the endurance family. It is great to see the #1 on our car this year; our target is to retain it and win the Le Mans 24 Hours. This year the challenge will be greater than ever with four LMP1 manufacturers all presenting different technical solutions. We have worked very hard to improve our TS040 HYBRID and so far the testing results are encouraging. But there is a long way to go and we are eager to see the performance of our rivals at the Prologue, but more importantly at Silverstone for the first race.”
Hisatake Murata, General Manager, Motor Sports Unit Development Division: “We have put huge effort into upgrading the whole car, including the powertrain, where we have made improvements in most areas. This means that total maximum power is over 1,000PS and the performance of the powertrain has been considerably enhanced. Our development means we will achieve the maximum hybrid energy more consistently than last season. Therefore we fully expect to see a performance improvement from the hybrid system, especially over race distances, and at every circuit. Our 2015 upgrades are another step towards producing ever-better hybrid cars and, once again, components and techniques from the TS040 HYBRID will be utilised to improve TOYOTA road cars.”
Pascal Vasselon, Technical Director: “The regulations have been essentially stable so there was no reason to review completely our concept, considering our performance throughout 2014. So the updated car is no revolution but it’s an evolution almost everywhere. It looks like it is from the same family; nevertheless we have redesigned roughly 80% of the parts. Again this season we will have high and low downforce packages, for the usual reason that Le Mans has very different requirements compared to most other tracks. The current regulations favour more subtle changes between these packages to keep the drag reasonably low, such as modifications to the rear wing, engine cover and front end. So far we are satisfied with our progress during the ‘one-car race’ that is testing. Now we have a few weeks remaining to get ready for the serious business of racing.”
Anthony Davidson (#1 TS040 HYBRID): “Having the #1 on the car is really great and we want to defend that. It was a great feeling to win the championship last year but there was one big race missing and that was Le Mans. From the team’s point of view as well as from me personally, the goal is to win the big one in June. We know the competition is going to be strong so I hope we will have a little more luck than we had last year; you always need some luck at Le Mans. The regulations are in their second year so the updated car has been a natural progression in most areas. The initial feeling is positive and now the important thing to do is keep improving and leave nothing to chance.”
Sébastien Buemi (#1 TS040 HYBRID): “It’s always nice to start the season with the #1 on the car; that shows that we have achieved something good last year. We want to win as many races as possible but my main focus for this year is definitely to win Le Mans, which also helps a lot to win the World Championship because of the double points. We obviously already had a great car last year so the idea was not to completely change it; it’s more an evolution. It feels like it’s just a bit better everywhere, which helps you to improve the lap times. Let’s hope what we’ve done will be enough to stay in front.”
Kazuki Nakajima (#1 TS040 HYBRID): “It’s great to be racing in WEC for the complete season for the first time; I missed the team spirit and the competition when I’ve been watching some races on TV these last few years. So I can’t wait to get started at Silverstone. It will be fun to drive with Anthony and Sébastien this year, although it doesn’t feel like we have separate car crews as such; we are one big team with the same targets. This year, like last, we are all aiming for the top and I hope to keep hold of the #1 plate; it looks nice on the car. So far the updated car feels good so I am feeling confident, but there is still plenty of work to do so we are prepared in the best possible way.”
Alex Wurz (#2 TS040 HYBRID): “I start this new season full of hope. We won the World Championship as a team last year and the target is to top it up with the Le Mans victory this year. I really need to win it for a third time to be happy. We already had our first tests with the updated car and we are setting faster lap times than in 2014, with improved reliability. From that point of view all is positive. Of course we are very aware of the competitors working extremely hard as well but in general it’s a cool time to be in endurance racing. There’s a lot of development going on with amazing technologies so let’s hope that we’ve done a better homework than the others.”
Stéphane Sarrazin (#2 TS040 HYBRID): “We had an amazing season in 2014 and of course we want to have an even better season this year. We’ve already improved the car; the tests we did were really good. I feel very comfortable with the revised car and I think we can push a lot. The team did an incredible job with the updates so I think we’ll be strong again. We know to expect a tough challenge from the other manufacturers so we have to work hard and concentrate lot on our job. We need to give our best; the drivers, the engineers, the mechanics, all of us and then I’m sure we can have a good season. With our great team spirit, we can be strong again.”
Mike Conway (#2 TS040 HYBRID): “To be racing for the World Champions is very exciting for me and I’m sure we have a good shot at retaining the title this year so I’m looking forward to it. It’s good to continue with Alex and Stéphane as I think we learn a lot from each other; we push each other and get the best out of our package. My target this year is certainly to win more races, as I did for the first time last year in Bahrain, and of course everyone is looking towards the big one; Le Mans. It’s hard to tell where the competition is but I think we’re looking good with the 2015-spec TS040 HYBRID and I’m excited to go to the first race.”
Kamui Kobayashi (Test and Reserve Driver): “It’s great to be back with TOYOTA and I am grateful to the team for giving me this chance. I know many of the team members from my time with TOYOTA in Formula 1 so this feels like I am coming home. I have already tested the TS040 HYBRID and it is impressive; the hybrid technology is really advanced. It’s another important year for the team so I am looking forward to building a strong working relationship with everyone and contributing to the development of the car.”
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.