Toyota’s Le Mans challenge


Toyota is confident it can convert its recent race-leading pace in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) into challenging for victory at this coming weekend’s Le Mans 24-hour classic sports car race in France.

The team is campaigning two 746kWs TS050 hybrid-powered race cars that have been specifically developed for the 84th running of the famous endurance race.

WEC 2014 world champions Sébastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson led the Spa 6 Hours in Belgium last month before suffering a technical issue.

"The car feels good and we have seen at Spa that we are able to compete at the front," Buemi said.

Lead driver in the other car, Stéphane Sarrazin - Le Mans pole-setter on three occasions - said the team has taken a big step with the TS050 Hybrid.

"The car is really competitive and we showed at Spa that we can lead a race and challenge for victory. I think it will be an exciting race this year and I am confident we can fight."

Buemi and Davidson will share their car with Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima, who took pole position in 2014. Sarrazin's co-drivers are Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi.

Intense development of the new 2.4-litre V6 turbo-charged engine has resulted in an efficient and powerful powertrain when combined with the battery-based 8MJ hybrid system. In parallel, a new chassis was developed for 2016. A low down force aerodynamic package will make its race debut at Le Mans following a successful test at the circuit.

Le Mans is known as the most demanding sports-car race for drivers and cars. Toyota has finished second at Le Mans in 1992, 1994, 1999 and 2013. The team will be balancing outright speed while conserving fuel and tyres in the battle for victory against strong competition from Audi and Porsche.

Toyota Racing Series graduates Earl Bamber (Wanganui) and Brendon Hartley (Palmerston North) finished.

The event starts with practice and qualifying on Wednesday and Thursday, with the race starting at 3pm Saturday (French time).