TOYOTA Racing enters the 2015 World Endurance Championship ready to start a new era with the defence of its two titles.
TOYOTA became the first Japanese company to win the World Championship during a very successful 2014 season, which saw Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi also win the drivers’ title. In a period where energy efficiency is a key performance factor, the TS040 HYBRID proved to be the class of the field, taking five wins from eight races.
The championship-winning car has been updated for 2015, with updated aerodynamics, revised front end including crash structure and new suspension kinematics to optimize tyre usage, plus additional weight saving.
The TS040 HYBRID will again benefit from the proven TOYOTA HYBRID System – Racing powertrain, which boasts excellent thermal efficiency and delivers a total maximum power of over 1,000PS.
As with last season, the TS040 HYBRID will compete within the 6MJ hybrid category with enhancements, such as modifications to the super capacitor construction to increase performance.
The team has prepared two different aerodynamic packages for this season, both of which will be tested at the Prologue held at Paul Ricard this week. The Le Mans option is better suited to the high-speed La Sarthe track while the sprint package generates higher levels of downforce due to revisions on the rear wing, engine cover and front bodywork.
Development began directly after last year’s Le Mans 24 Hours and the updated car was tested for the first time on 13 January at Paul Ricard. Further three-day tests at Motorland Aragon (twice) and Portimao mean the 2015 TS040 HYBRID has completed over 25,000km prior to today’s official launch.
Inside the cockpit, the #1 TS040 HYBRID will feature World Champions Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi alongside Kazuki Nakajima, who is planned to compete in a full WEC season for the first time.
“Having the #1 on the car is really great and we want to defend that.” said Davidson “It was a great feeling to win the championship last year but there was one big race missing and that was Le Mans. From the team’s point of view as well as from me personally, the goal is to win the big one in June.”
“We want to win as many races as possible but my main focus for this year is definitely to win Le Mans, which also helps a lot to win the World Championship because of the double points.” added Buemi.
In the #2 car, Alex Wurz and Stéphane Sarrazin are joined by Briton Mike Conway, who raced three times in 2014 in his role as test and reserve driver, winning the Six Hours of Bahrain.
“It’s good to continue with Alex and Stéphane as I think we learn a lot from each other; we push each other and get the best out of our package.” said Mike Conway when asked how he relished a full WEC assault. “My target this year is certainly to win more races, as I did for the first time last year in Bahrain, and of course everyone is looking towards the big one; Le Mans. It’s hard to tell where the competition is but I think we’re looking good with the 2015-spec TS040 HYBRID and I’m excited to go to the first race.”
Kamui Kobayashi, who previously drove for TOYOTA in Formula 1 and finished sixth in its final Grand Prix, becomes test and reserve driver. Kamui will combine his role with a Super Formula campaign in Japan, while Nicolas Lapierre steps back following three seasons in the race crew to assist KCMG. He will be available for testing and development duties throughout the season.
As well as changes in personnel and technology, TOYOTA Racing, along with the other manufacturers, has also had to adapt to revised regulations for 2015.
Teams are now limited to a maximum of five engines per car for the entire season, although none of the team’s cars exceeded this limit in any of the previous three seasons. Additional limits apply to tyre usage, with four sets of slicks allowed during practice and six for qualifying and the race, except in Bahrain and Shanghai where eight sets are permitted, with 11 sets permitted during the Le Mans race.
Flexibility limits have been introduced for bodywork items such as the splitter, the rear wing, diffuser and plank, while the car is now subject to added ballast when, as is the case with the #1 and #2 crews, the average driver weight is less than 80kg.
“The regulations have been essentially stable so there was no reason to review completely our concept, considering our performance throughout 2014.” said Pascal Vasselon, Technical Director. “So the updated car is an evolution almost everywhere, we have redesigned roughly 80% of the parts.
“Again this season we will have high and low downforce packages, for the usual reason that Le Mans has very different requirements compared to most other tracks. The current regulations favour more subtle changes between these packages to keep the drag reasonably low, such as modifications to the rear wing, engine cover and front end. So far we are satisfied with our progress during the ‘one-car race’ that is testing. Now we have a few weeks remaining to get ready for the serious business of racing.”
Those new regulations will apply when the season kicks off at Silverstone on 12 April, followed by Spa-Francorchamps on 2 May.