Toyota’s LMP1 car for the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship season will feature ‘limited upgrades’ according to technical director Pascal Vasselon.
The Toyota TS050 Hybrid, which was formally launched on the morning of Friday’s pre-season Prologue test, is largely unchanged ahead of its third year in competition.
Small improvements have been made to the 1,000-horsepower hybrid electric powertrain/2.4-liter V6 twin-turbo engine combination, as well as some aerodynamic components.
Vasselon said the changes have been made to improve the car’s reliability, as Toyota bids to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time with a lineup including two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso.
The Japanese manufacturer was in contention until the final lap in 2016, while last year its victory chances were dashed by a series of accidents during the night.
“Unlike previous years, the upgrades on our 2018 car are limited,” said Vasselon.
“In addition to reliability improvements on the powertrain, we updated the cooling system and developed the bodywork within our 2017 homologation.
“In terms of outright performance, in the past four years we have had a car fast enough to win Le Mans on three occasions, with no fundamental reliability issues. Nevertheless, we failed every time to win so we had to do something about it.
“We have largely changed the way we are preparing for the race this year, focusing more on unconventional race situations.”
The TS050 Hybrid’s winter program has included 21,000 kms of running across four three-day tests involving all six full-season drivers.
Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez will return to the No. 7 car, while Alonso joins Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima in the No. 8.
The McLaren F1 driver replaces 2014 World Endurance champion Anthony Davidson in the lineup, with the Briton assuming a test and reserve driver role alongside his post-Le Mans LMP2 commitments with DragonSpeed.
Toyota will race with 69 percent less fuel energy than its LMP1 competition, which translates to a deficit of 86 MJ per lap of the Circuit de la Sarthe (notwithstanding the car’s 8 MJ hybrid system).
It will also have a lower fuel flow rate compared with the non-hybrids, which can run up to 45 kg lighter.
Those shortfalls, which have been mandated by the updated regulations, will provide a “challenge like no other” according to team director Rob Leupen.
“We have demonstrated since 2012 that our hybrid electric powertrain delivers real performance and efficiency benefits,” said Leupen.
“Now we must be more efficient than ever to beat our LMP1 rivals, who have significantly more energy, more fuel flow and less weight.
“We thrive on challenges like this as they push us to make ever-better cars. But make no mistake, we hate to lose so our target could not be clearer; victory at Le Mans and the WEC title.”