Toyota Gazoo Racing has revealed its updated TS050 Hybrid race car which will carry its hopes in the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). Monza in northern Italy hosted the first public appearance of the new car, presented alongside team management and the drivers of the three TS050 Hybrids which will compete this season.
The team has outlined a clear target to earn its first Le Mans victory following an extraordinary near miss in 2016. That has required a combined effort at its technical centres in Higashi-Fuji and Cologne, which has seen upgrades applied to every area of the TS050.
The 2017 car features a 2.4-liter V6 turbocharged petrol engine combined with 8MJ hybrid system. Significant effort at Higashi-Fuji sees the introduction of a new engine, optimising thermal efficiency by increasing the compression ratio via development of the combustion chamber, cylinder block and cylinder head. The hybrid system too has been optimised. Motor generator units (MGU) have been reduced in size and weight while the high-powered lithium-ion battery has been developed further.
WEC regulations for 2017 target a reduction in aerodynamic efficiency, to increase the Le Mans lap time by several seconds for safety reasons. This is achieved by raising the front splitter by 15mm in combination with a narrower rear diffuser.
Using tools such as computational fluid dynamics and wind tunnels, Toyota Gazoo Racing has modified its aerodynamic concept to meet this challenge; a raised nose and sharp undercut to the sidepods are the most noticeable modifications.
According to new regulations, teams are limited to two aerodynamic configurations per season, reduced from three in 2016, with the low-downforce TS050 launched today. Tire usage is also restricted, with each car limited to four sets, plus two spare tires, for qualifying and six-hour races. The team has worked with Michelin to meet this challenge, including new compounds and constructions, as well as optimising the suspension geometry to limit wear.
Other rule changes are designed to enhance safety. Side mirrors now need to pass a wider visibility field test while hybrid cars must display lights to indicate normal powertrain behaviour. If the green safety light is not illuminated during a race, a car will be forced to pit for repairs.
The 2017-specification TS050 Hybrid has already recorded over 30,000km in testing this year, comprising five tests, at Paul Ricard, Motorland Aragon and Portimao, and including four 30-hour endurance tests.
“The whole team is motivated and determined for this season. We want to win, there is no doubt about that, but we know it will be a tough fight with Porsche,” explained Toshio Sato, team president. “The team in Higashi-Fuji and Cologne has worked incredibly hard to update the TS050 Hybrid and the first indications are encouraging. Having a third car is an additional opportunity and we will do our best to again deliver a great spectacle for the fans at Le Mans. We know from painful experience that Le Mans is a very difficult race to win, but that is our target. Everything – the car, the team and the drivers – has to work perfectly to achieve our goal. We will see in June if we have done enough.”
“Although the TS050 Hybrid shares the same name as the 2016 car, its performance has been greatly improved by reviewing the powertrain and enhancing efficiency in all areas,” added Histake Murata, racing hybrid project leader. “Toyota Gazoo Racing’s biggest goal for this year, as always, is winning Le Mans. The team in Higashi-Fuji has worked ceaselessly since Le Mans last year to develop a powertrain which will deliver performance over one lap and over a full race distance, enabling us to compete at the front. This has resulted in a new engine, plus modifications to the motor generator units and battery. The first results are very encouraging but we will continue to fine-tune so we are ready.”
“Our 2017 TS050 Hybrid represents a significant update; the only item which is not changed is the monocoque,” stated Pascal Vasselon, technical director. “At several races last year we showed the potential of our car with strong performances. But to achieve our targets we need more, so as well as big aerodynamic changes, we have optimised each area for performance and weight. What happened at Le Mans last year was painful so we gave extra attention to quality management. Zero risk doesn’t exist so we operate according to a given level of risk, which this year we have reduced. Pre-season testing has gone well in terms of performance and reliability so we feel positive but we also know we face a tough competitor.”