Toyota’s 2015-spec TS040 Hybrid will remain in the 6 MJ hybrid subclass this year, but with an upgraded hybrid system, the Japanese manufacturer revealed during the launch of the car Thursday at Paul Ricard.
The car, an evolution of the FIA World Endurance Championship-winning model from last year, is 80 percent redesigned, featuring all-new bodywork, improved aerodynamics and reduced drag.
It also sees an updated crash structure, but with the same monoquoque and 3.7-liter normally aspirated V8 engine.
According to technical director Pascal Vasselon, one of the biggest improvements has come in the hybrid system, which features increased capacity from 2014, despite it being in the same subclass.
“The hybrid system has been upgraded in almost all its components, mainly motors and capacitor,” Vasselon explained. “It means that last year we really were not at 6 MJ. This year we will be much closer to perform in the 6 MJ category in almost all conditions.”
While a move to the 8 MJ subclass was explored, as well as a move from supercapicators to battery storage, Vasselon said remaining in the same category was the best compromise for the coming season.
“It’s not black and white,” he said. “There were chances we could have, in some cases, competed in 8 MJ.
“The problem is which temperature are you going to face? You have a list of conditions. In some circumstances we would not have been able to be achieve 8 MJ so we prefer to be at 6 MJ.”
Vasselon said the upgraded hybrid system has resulted in a weight increase, but countered by a reduction in weight with other components, meaning the TS040 remains at the 870 kg minimum weight.
Toyota has taken part in four previous pre-season tests, including three-day tests at Portimao, Motorland Aragon and Paul Ricard, although this weekend’s two-day Prologue official pre-season test will mark the first running of its low-downforce Le Mans aero kit.
“It’s always easy to win the winter race against yourself so I would say we were reasonably pleased with our winter testing,” Vasselon said. “We are beating last year’s performance but whether or not we beat our competitors, this we do not know yet.
“Performance wise, we’ve made progress. Reliability-wise, it went well. We did 26,500 km. We ran basically without any issue. But again we don’t know what level our competitors will operate. We will start to find out tomorrow.”
Kamui Kobayashi, meanwhile, has been confirmed as the test and reserve driver through the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the ex-F1 driver focusing on his race commitments in Super Formula this year.
Vasselon said Kazuki Nakajima, who moves to the No. 1 car of Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi this year, is expected to contest all races this year, with Nicolas Lapierre still under contract by TMG.
Additionally, Toshio Sato has been named the new TMG President, effective April 1, replacing Yoshiaki Kinoshita, who returns to Japan on a new assignment.