Toyota Hypercar Dominates Le Mans 24 Hour Race
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The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a brutal test of endurance, where teams of three racers share driving duties for 24 straight hours. Top speeds exceed 200 mph along the infamous Circuit de la Sarthe road course.
Recently fans saw the 89th running of the legendary race, and the inaugural year featuring a hypercar class. A hypercar is identified by its ultra-light construction, low-drag design, and hybrid drive. These cars offer better fuel economy than traditional race cars, and equal or better performance.
Toyota entered two teams, both equipped with its brand new hypercar, the GR010 Hybrid. The GR010 is the latest race car to be unveiled by Toyota, following the sporty hydrogen-powered Corolla, which impressed at the Fuji 24 Hours Endurance Race earlier this year.
The GR010 didn’t disappoint, with Toyota taking first and second place at Le Mans. The victory is a big deal for Toyota’s automotive designers, who are positioning themselves as industry leaders when it comes to incorporating emerging technologies in their cars.
The Toyota GR010.
How did the race unfold?
As explained by Motorsport.com, Toyota’s driver lineup remained unchanged from the 2019-20 FIA World Endurance Championship, consisting of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and José María López in car #7 and Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and Brendon Hartley in car #8.
Kobayashi had secured pole position for the #7 Toyota hypercar, and got away cleanly at the start of the race. The #8 Toyota was less fortunate, getting into a minor collision on the first bend and spinning off track.
Thanks to some impressive handling from the GR010 in very wet conditions, #8 was able to claw its way back to the front of the pack.
It wasn’t all plain sailing from there though, as both Toyota cars began experiencing problems with fuel pickup, restricting them to shorter stints between pit stops.
Fortunately for Toyota, the delays didn’t prove critical, as Kamui Kobayashi crossed the finish line first in car #7, closely followed by the other Toyota team in car #8, securing a 1-2 finish for the Japanese hypercar.
The Toyota GR010 Hybrid hypercar
The Toyota GR010 was only revealed to the public on January 15, 2021, and it has already established itself as the car to beat. Rival race teams will be busy studying the specs in an attempt to close the gap before the next hypercar race. Here’s what we know about it:
The Toyota GR010 Hybrid is the successor of the Toyota TS050 Hybrid (winner of 2 double WEC world titles and 3 straight victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 2018 to 2020).
The design is reminiscent of the Toyota GR Super Sport Concept, which is widely considered to be the GR010’s road version counterpart.
The GR010 has a 3.5 L twin-turbocharged petrol V6 with a hybrid system, and is reliant on lithium-ion batteries. It has a transversal 7-speed sequential semi-automatic transmission.
This puts out a combined 939 horsepower, and thanks to the lightweight carbon fibre and aluminum chassis, means the GR010 is capable of outrageous speeds.
The #7 GR010 Hybrid achieved the highest peak speed during this year’s Le Mans, clocking 211 mph in the 72nd lap of the race.
Why is this race a big deal for Toyota?
The successful Le Mans 24 Hour race was a marketing boon for Toyota. Not just for car sales in Europe, where the race has a passionate following, but also for showcasing their ability to utilize cutting edge technology.
Toyota has been winning awards in the U.S., including for the RAV4 Hybrid, but investors have criticised the car maker for being slow to embrace the electrification of its vehicles.
Winning such a high profile race in such dominant fashion is proof that Toyota’s engineers are some of the best in the world, and share prices rose on the back of the victory.
On a personal level, the #7 Toyota team of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez were finally able to enjoy victory after years of heartbreak.
In 2017, they held a comfortable lead in the latter stages of Le Mans 24 Hour, before Kobayashi misunderstood a race marshall’s signal and left the pitlane too early. This led to a burnt-out clutch and ultimately cost them victory.
The same team had to watch as the Toyota #8 secured first place at the next two Le Mans 24 Hour races, but have finally experienced a win in the new Toyota hypercar.