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Toyota TS030 at the 24h race Le Mans 2012: Can the Toyota hybrid annoy Audi?

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Toyota TS030 at the Le Mans 24h race 2012
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D he results from Toyota at the 24th -Hourly races at Le Mans were second class in the past. 1992: Second place with the TS010. 1994: Second place with the 94C-V. 1999: Second place with the TS020. With the TS030 Hybrid, things are going to be different, although technical director Pascal Vasselon makes it clear that nobody at Toyota seriously expects a win in 2012: “Of course we are racers and want to win. But the mind says that this will hardly be possible. Our goal is to produce the fastest LMP1 hybrid in Le Mans. ”

Test accident delayed preparations

Preparations for the return did not go smoothly. The Toyota Motorsport Group (TMG) in Cologne, which was commissioned with the development, has been processing the test work with just one monocoque since the end of January. A test accident in Paul Ricard on April 4, 2012 caught TMG on the wrong foot.

In the double right bend in Beausset, the engine ECU suddenly switched to the emergency program during a rain test - water had penetrated and paralyzed the electronics. TMG had carelessly used an engine control that was only approved for test bench tests - a test for water resistance was missing.

The German-Japanese paid a high price for the faux pas: the test work was suspended for a month, two planned long-distance tests were canceled. 'We can catch up with the tests in May, but we lost our chance to contest the race in Spa because of the accident,' Vasselon regrets. “And as everyone knows: there's no substitute for racing.”

So far, Toyota has unwound 8,000 kilometers. If everything goes well, TMG wants to cover another 10,000 kilometers in two tests in May before they compete in the Le Mans pre-test at the beginning of June - without any practical racing tests.

Toyota is the big stranger in the LMP paddock

On the one hand, the world's largest car manufacturer is behind the mission, which also has excellent expertise in hybrid technology. On the other hand, the decision to return to Le Mans was only made in October 2011. The original plan saw 2012 as a test and preparation year - with a few races. After the dramatic withdrawal of Peugeot, the program had to be expanded in a flash.

So you shouldn't have too high expectations of the Toyota debut. On the other hand, it would be wrong, at allnothing to expect. Because the Toyota TS030 Hybrid presented itself completely revised at the photo shoot in Spa: The aerodynamics, especially at the front end, was turned inside out because the hybrid arrangement with supercapacitors from Nisshinbo now definitely takes its energy on the rear axle and feeds it back in.

“We definitely considered a front hybrid with all-wheel drive,” says Pascal Vasselon. 'But the stipulation that such a system can only be used above 120 km /h negates the advantages in terms of driving dynamics and also does not offer any clear improvement in tire use.'

Hybrid project manager Hisatake Murata adds: ' The hybrid system in the rear is also an advantage for us in terms of weight distribution. ”The electric motors and generators were stowed in the gearbox. “In addition, the hybrid system in the rear allows more freedom in designing the front aerodynamics.”

New aerodynamics concept at Toyota

So the recently angular front splitter works like a wing, the wheel arches rise more steeply and have a flat roof. The wheel arch ventilation has been revised, as has the brake ventilation. At the rear, following the Audi trend, the wheel arches have been pulled far forward, and the brake ventilation has also been modified again for recuperation on the rear axle. The rear wing end plates have also been revised.

The mechanical assemblies such as the engine and drive train should be bulletproof until the 24h race. After all, Toyota has all the relevant data from Le Mans on the customer racing team Rebellion. This enables test stand profiles to be created and correctly simulated.

The naturally aspirated 3.4-liter V8 engine is a completely new development and 20 kilos lighter than the customer engine derived from the Nippon formula. There are also no coffin nails lurking in the gearbox, because the very light engine does not require exotic solutions in the rear. For example, in contrast to the expensive Audi solution, the gearbox housing is made of disdainful aluminum.

Where does Toyota stand when it comes to hybrids?

While Audi chose the simple strategy - you bought an off-the-shelf system - Toyota has higher expectations. Because the Japanese have been working on an application for the racing hybrid since 2006 and have run through many thousands of test kilometers with the Dome test vehicle, one can assume that the reliability should be right.

Toyota uses supercapacitors. In contrast to lithium-ion batteries or flywheels, the supercaps can absorb and release energy more quickly. 'The super capacitors are the best compromise for the amount of energy that we are allowed to store according to the regulations,' says Vasselon. However, the development of heat and the need for cooling are considered critical. But again: Toyota has in this sectoryears of experience. “Audi probably only decided against supercaps because they feared that they would not be able to guarantee the reliability of this technology,” speculates Vasselon. TMG also wants to use the hybrid system to save fuel. But if you don't want to finish second at Le Mans in 2012, you definitely have to focus on speed.

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