Toyota will be looking to do a “David” on the “Goliaths” of endurance sports car racing at the Le Mans 24 Hours on 13 and 14 June.
The French race, first held in 1923, is the jewel in the crown of the World Endurance Championship, which Toyota won last year, becoming the first Japanese manufacturer to do so.
The team’s pair of TS040 Hybrids will face three cars teams from Audi, Nissan and Porsche this year.
In the opening two rounds of the World Endurance Championship this year Toyota only has a third place at Silverstone to show for their efforts.
"We have made improvements in lap times since last year,” said Toyota Motorsport GmbH race director Rob Leupen. “But it was not enough. We're going to Le Mans now as the underdog."
Toyota won five of the eight rounds of the championship in 2014 and Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Beumi, who were paired together all season, jointly won the Driver’s Championship.
Changes to the car since last year include an improved aerodynamic package, weight savings and suspension changes. The revised car is 80 percent new.
The hybrid package includes a 3.7 litre V8 motor with regenerative braking on the rear axle, with the power being stored in a super capacitor.
Under maximum acceleration, the Toyota TS040 produces over 1000 horsepower from the engine and stored power with dual hybrid units supplying the power to both axles, with the aid of a seven speed sequential gearbox.
Toyota will run a low downforce aerodynamic package on its two cars at Le Mans because of the long straights on the 13.6 kms track, which incorporates public roads near the town of Le Mans, 100 kms south west of Paris. Cars reach over 330 km/h on several occasions each lap.
We do not start Le Mans as favourites but that does not affect our focus or our attitude. We will give everything for this race, with a target of zero mistakes and minimal time in the pits,” said Toshio Sato the, Team President. “But we have a very experienced driver line-up.”
Davidson and Beumi, both former Formula One drivers, will be joined by Kazuki Nakajima to share the driving duties in the round the clock race.
Nakajima, another former Formula One driver, has recovered from the fractured vertebrae he suffered at Spa last month when blinded by the spray, he drove into the back of another car during practice.
Davidson and Beumi have both had a second and third at Le Mans over the last two years.
Toyota’s second car will be shared by former Formula One drivers Alex Wurz and Stephane Sarrazin. Wurz won at Le Mans in 1996 and 2009 and Sarrazin has finished second and third in the 24 hours. Third driver Mike Conway has made his way to sportscar racing via Indy cars, where he scored two wins.
All six drivers are vastly experienced at international level with more than a decade of racing at the top each.
And that experience will be tested to the limit in front of a crowd of 250,000 people next Saturday and Sunday.