TOYOTA GAZOO Racing revealed the updated TS050 HYBRID race car which will carry its hopes in the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López race the #7 for the full season, alongside Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima in the #8. Stéphane Sarrazin is joined by Yuji Kunimoto and Nicolas Lapierre in the #9 at Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans.
The team has a clear target to earn its first Le Mans victory following an extraordinary near miss in 2016. That requires a combined effort at its technical centres in Higashi-Fuji and Cologne, with upgrades in every area of the TS050 HYBRID.
The 2017 car features a 2.4litre V6 turbo-charged petrol engine combined with 8MJ hybrid system. Significant effort at Higashi-Fuji sees the introduction of a new engine, optimising thermal efficiency by increasing the compression ratio via development of the combustion chamber, cylinder block and cylinder head.
The hybrid system too has been optimised. Motor generator units (MGU) have been reduced in size and weight while the high-powered lithium-ion battery has been developed further. Those advancements in hybrid technology will directly benefit TOYOTA customers on the road, combining with the knowledge gained by powertrain engineers to create ever-better cars in the future.
To complete a wide-ranging update for the new season, engineers in Cologne have optimised virtually all areas of the TS050 HYBRID chassis, working as one team with colleagues from Higashi-Fuji.
WEC regulations for 2017 target a reduction in aerodynamic efficiency, to increase the Le Mans lap time by several seconds for safety reasons. This is achieved by raising the front splitter by 15mm in combination with a narrower rear diffuser.
Using tools such as computational fluid dynamics and wind tunnels, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing has modified its aerodynamic concept to meet this challenge; a raised nose and sharp undercut to the sidepods are the most noticeable modifications.
According to new regulations, teams are limited to two aerodynamic configurations per season, reduced from three in 2016, with the low-downforce TS050 HYBRID launched today. Tyre usage is also restricted, with each car limited to four sets, plus two spare tyres, for qualifying and six-hour races. The team has worked with Michelin to meet this challenge, including new compounds and constructions, as well as optimising the suspension geometry to limit wear.
Other rule changes are designed to enhance safety. Side mirrors now need to pass a wider visibility field test while hybrid cars must display lights to indicate normal powertrain behaviour. If the green safety light is not illuminated during a race, a car will be forced to pit for repairs.
The 2017-specification TS050 HYBRID has already recorded over 30,000km in testing this year, comprising five tests, at Paul Ricard, Motorland Aragon and Portimao, and including four 30-hour endurance tests.
With an updated car and a driver line-up including former World Champions and multiple WEC race winners, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing heads to the season opener on 16 April at Silverstone with great determination, but expecting a close and exciting nine-race LMP1 battle with Porsche.
José María López (#7 TS050 HYBRID): “My biggest target this season is to learn as quickly as I can and to do the best with the team together. Driving in endurance is a first for me, especially with the traffic; I’ve never experienced that before. All of it will be an interesting challenge and I’m very much looking forward to it. It’s a bit difficult to say before the beginning of the season but I want to give everything and win races. This year’s car feels very good and it’s a lot of fun to drive an LMP1 car, it’s very powerful especially with the hybrid system.”