Toyota’s heritage in endurance motor sport developing the Toyota TS-Series is a rich one that is characterised by patience and perseverance. This steadfast approach over the years has paid off because in 2014 their hard work earned them both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ World Championship. After riding the crest of the wave at the end of 2014, the team was brought down with a hard bump in 2015 when they failed to win a single race, their only podium being a third place at the final race of the season.
As the 2016 season is now about to start, we take a look at the long and twisty road that Toyota has travelled with the Toyota TS-Series of prototype race cars, and to see how the new TS050 stacks up.
The TS010 debuted at the last race of the ’91 season at Autopolis in Japan. And as from the ’92 season the cars would have to run with the new 3.5 litre engine. The change in engine spec was brought about by Bernie Ecclestone’s move to lure manufacturers away from this hugely popular sports car series to his F1 circus, and so the Toyota Group C V8 twin-turbo engine was dropped in favour of the new V10 set-up. Toyota’s new all-aluminium engine could muster 700bhp if pushed, but was tuned down to produce a more reliable 600bhp in race trim. The fuel injected, naturally aspirated V10 was set at 72º with DOHC and four valves per cylinder, and the rear wheels were driven through a 6-speed manual ‘box. The minimum class weight was 750kg, but the Toyotas tipped the scales at around 770kg. Pushing out this kind of power and weighing so little, this racer was a potent machine, especially as Group C ground effects was still legal. The TS010 only raced for one full season, but it was a big step forward from the Group C car that it replaced.
The next car in the Toyota TS-Series was introduced in the late ‘90s. The Toyota TS020, or the GT-One as it was better known, was a completely new car. Powered now by a twin-turbocharged V8 of 3.6-litre capacity, the GT-One also developed 600bhp and was driven through a 6-speed sequential TTE gearbox. The whole concept was one of the most advanced in motor sport at the time, being designed entirely on CAD systems. It made its first competitive appearance at the 1998 Le Mans 24-Hour race where the #28 car qualified in second place. In the race, the trio of Boutsen/Kelleners/Lees in the #29 car was running strongly in second place right up until 70 minutes from the end, when the gearbox which had been repaired twice already, finally gave up. The Toyota team did have the satisfaction of setting the fastest race lap of 3:41.809 with Brundle behind the wheel of the #28 car. In 1999, Toyota returned to Le Mans with a three-car attack and qualified in first, second and eighth place. It was this third car of Japanese trio Katayama/Tsuchiya/Suzuki that finished second while the other two retired, one with a puncture and the other as a result of an accident.
TS030 Hybrid (2012/2013)
The all-new TS030 broke cover in 2012, as the 3rd in the Toyota TS-Series. It was now powered by a 3.4-litre, normally aspirated V8 petrol engine. Regulations for the LMP1 class for the 2012/2013 seasons required that the kinetic energy recovery/generation system could only be fitted to the front or the rear of the car. On the TS030 the motor generator unit (MGU) was fitted on the rear axle, which was stored in the super capacitor-based system – limited by regulation to maximum of 500KJ at seven points at Le Mans, so a total of 3.5MJ was allowed. Unfortunately, both the #7 and #8 cars failed to finish at Le Mans in 2012. But at Silverstone on 25 August, Alexander Wurz/Nicolas Lapierre/Kazuki Nakajima in the #7 car secured third place on the grid and finished second overall.
The 2013 car was given its first full test at the Prologue held at the Paul Ricard circuit in Southern France in March of that year, an event which has now become a keenly awaited fixture on the annual calendar. For the 2013 season, the TS030 Hybrid used a revised, uprated version of the hybrid system from the year before. The TS030’s V8 engine delivered some 530bhp and the MGU delivered an additional 300bhp of power. The Silverstone race in 2013 was moved to its earlier date in April. And the two Toyotas gave a better showing finishing third and fourth having started from first and second on the grid. At Le Mans, Davidson/Sarrazin/Buemi finished second (grid 4th) in the #8 Toyota while Wurz/Lapierre/Nakajima in the #7 came home in fourth place (grid 5th). Although Audi stormed away with the Championship, Toyota scored two victories in 2013, these being the all-important home race at Fuji, and the season finale at Bahrain. Things were certainly looking good for the following year!
Next in the Toyota TS-Series, the new TS040 featured a 3.7 litre normally aspirated V8, with the MGU fitted to the front and rear axle. Due to rule changes, the cars were 10cm narrower in 2014, and although work started at the beginning of 2013, this had significant implications for the design engineers. Besides engineering a new package, the 2014 cars had to contend with a raft of new safety regulations as well, such as wheel tethers, a rear crash structure, and improved driver visibility. By necessity the car became more complex due to the upgraded MGU and its relocation to the front axle. Toyota moved this model into the 6MJ class. This had to be achieved while reducing fuel consumption and meeting a 45kg drop in the minimum weight.
The 2014 season got off to a promising start with the all-new TS040 when the two Toyotas finished first and second in the opening race at Silverstone. Perhaps this was an early sign of things to come as the old guard, Audi, didn’t even make it onto the podium, the third place being filled by a resurgent Porsche team. Toyota went on to win at Spa, Fuji, Shanghai, and Bahrain, all of which gave Toyota the 2014 FIA World Endurance Manufacturers’ Championship.
But the euphoria was not carried forward to the following year, as the rather disappointing season was devoid of any victories, the sole podium coming by way of a third place in the final race of 2015.
For more pics, check out these links:
A new season…a clean sheet…and a new car. The latest car in the Toyota TS-Series was unveiled in March 2016. The new TS050 Hybrid made its debut at the Paul Ricard Prologue pre-season test in the south of France. Just as Porsche turned convention on its head with the 2-litre V4 919 Hybrid in 2014, so too has Toyota come up with a totally new configuration. Replacing the TS040’s 3.7-liter naturally aspirated V8, is a twin-turbo 2.4-liter V6 engine with direct injection. There are still two MGUs, one at the front and one at the rear, but energy is now stored in a lithium-ion battery instead of super capacitors. This season sees the TS050 move into the 8MJ hybrid class. The combined output generated totals 1000PS (986bhp), made up of 500PS (493bhp) from the V6 engine and 500PS (493bhp) from the hybrid system. The TS050 is driven through an updated seven-speed gearbox to cope with the extra torque from the new engine and hybrid system.
For more pics, check out these links: 2016 – Prologue
So what can we learn from the 2016 Prologue? One thing is for sure, and that is that there was a good deal of sandbagging going on, because no team wants to show its hand too early. But a comparison between the fastest cars from each of the top three LMP1 teams 2015 and 2016 times makes for interesting reading:
1) #18 Porsche – Dumas/Jani/Lieb – night session day 1 – 1:37.220
3) #7 Audi R18 – Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer – afternoon session day 1 – 1:39.058
5) #1 Toyota TS040 – Davidson/Buemi/Nakajima – morning session day 1 – 1:39.949
1) #1 Porsche – Bernhard/Webber/Hartley – afternoon session day 2 – 1:37.445
3) #5 Toyota TS050 – Sarrazin/Conway/Kobayashi – morning session day 2 – 1:38.273
4) #7 Audi R18 – Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer – afternoon session day 2 – 1:38.827
Looking first at the time difference between the lead Porsche in 2015 and the Toyota TS040 in 2015, the Porsche was a full 2.7 seconds faster than the Toyota which was down in fifth place. In 2016, the Porsche was only 0.8 seconds quicker than the Toyota which was in turn a half second ahead of the Audi. The 2016 Porsche was a fraction slower than the 2015 car, which might be deliberate, and the Audi is a full second a lap quicker than its 2015 car.
So next weekend’s real race will be an interesting one, and VMP will bring you all the photos, results and stories throughout the weekend. Stay tuned!
Written by: Glen Smale