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Toyota going aggressive in quest for first Le Mans win

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Toyota going aggressive in quest for first Le Mans win


Old 06-14-2017, 01:01 AM
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Default Toyota going aggressive in quest for first Le Mans win

Toyota going aggressive in quest for first Le Mans win
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Wednesday, 14 June 2017

By Marshall Pruett / Images by Toyota Racing

The Toyota Racing team enters Le Mans infused with confidence after a pair of FIA World Endurance Championship wins and the fastest lap in Le Mans testing. The German-based factory outfit came within three crushing minutes of earning its maiden win at last year's 24 Hour with the brand-new Toyota TS050 Hybrid, and the squad has arrived at Le Mans with an aggressive plan to capture those three missing minutes.
The expansion to three cars a first since the Japanese brand returned to Le Mans in 2012 speaks to the ambition to correct the past. Already amazingly quick in its first season of competition, the sophomore TS050 Hybrid has somehow gotten faster. The raw speed under initial acceleration, courtesy of an upgraded 8MJ hybrid system, and prodigious top end grunt delivered by the 2.4-liter twin-turbo V6-powered TS050, has ensured the Toyotas are more than a match for Porsche's 919 Hybrid.
Slick, revised low-drag bodywork has taken the combined output of the Toyota's powertrain and eased the chassis through the air. The TS050 Hybrid, in its second visit to Le Mans, looks like it will be the car to catch.

"We knew along that we've got a fast car this year," Toyota driver Anthony Davidson told RACER. "We've proved that in the first two races. And, we could even feel it from the first time it turned a wheel in winter testing.
"You can never go to Le Mans confident, because, like we proved last year, anything really can happen, and you've got to expect the unexpected there. But, I think we can expect to have a nice car to drive, a car that's going to do what we want, and respond well to set up changes through the week, give us a chance for pole position."
The lap of 3m18.132s turned during the June 4 Le Mans test by the No. 7 Toyota was alarmingly quick when compared to the best Porsche could manage, a 3m21.512s with the No. 2 919 Hybrid. Davidson expects his No. 8 Toyota and the sister No. 9 entry to be quick when qualifying arrives, but nobody at Toyota believes their rivals will remain so far behind.

"We'll be somewhere close to Porsche, I should guess," he said. "I mean, I can't believe that they're going to be as far away as they were at the official test, but, I think can expect to have a good car. You can never go there expecting to walk the race and win it by a country mile."

Davidson's measured optimism comes from the impressive amount of work the Toyota team has completed coming into Le Mans.

"Porsche really raised the level and we responded to that," he said of the fortified TS050. "We knew we had to. It was time to get serious and I'm really proud of the team that they were able to turn it around. We should have won Le Mans last year and we won a race and had serious faith in the car at times last season. And then, one thing that the team's always been good at is responding to new aero-regulations."
The never-ending efforts by the ACO and FIA to slow its LMP1 Hybrids saw Porsche and Toyota lose downforce during the offseason, and as Davidson noted, his team has minimized the effects.
"That's why we were so strong in 2014 as well, don't forget, with a whole new concept to the LMP1 cars, so I think that's why we were good then and think that's why we're good again now, because we've had a serious overhaul of the aero-regulations going into this season," he added.
"I feel like the car is at a very good level, particularly on the low downforce kit for Le Mans, which is obviously the team's main target for this year, and mine."
Watching the 919 Hybrids explode off the corners at Le Mans in 2016 suggested the Toyota team had some performance to gain with its 8MJ energy recovery system. Although Davidson disputes the notion the TS050 Hybrids were behind the Porsches in ERS deployment, extra grunt from inside the cockpit has been noticeable all season long.
"We've improved the power train side of things as well because it's kind of where we, it's you want it to be in 2016 but you just, it was an impossible task to try to fast track that process that much," he said. "But, I'm pleased with what the team achieved [with Porsche-like power gains] because the drivers were jumping up and down saying, 'we want that!' We got to match them from the powertrain side of things. And, now I really feel that we genuinely have [it] this year."
Davidson can't predict what will happen come Sunday when the checkered flag waves, but after all he and the team went through last year, he's in a relatively relaxed place on the eve of the biggest race on the calendar.
"Let's see what story it brings this year," he said. "But, I know I'm going to enjoy it. They're amazing cars, it's a great track, it's a great event. As long as I do the job that I know I'm capable of, then I'll be happy."
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