Toyota launches updated TS050 Hybrid at WEC Prologue

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Toyota unveiled its updated challenger for the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship season, the TS050 Hybrid, at Monza on Friday ahead of the two-day collective ‘Prologue’ test.

Following a winless 2015, Toyota made great strides with its car heading into 2016, a season that will forever be remembered for its heartbreaking loss at Le Mans on the final lap of the race.

Toyota expands to a three-car effort at the Spa and Le Mans rounds in 2017, with previous full-timer Stephane Sarrazin moving into the No. 9 car alongside new arrivals Nicolas Lapierre and Yuji Kunimoto. Three-time WTCC champion Jose Maria Lopez replaces Sarrazin in the all-season line-up.

The No. 8 TS050 Hybrid will once again be shared between Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, while Lopez teams up with the returning Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi in the No. 7 car.

Toyota confirmed that the TS050 Hybrid will be racing with an all-new 2.4 liter V6 turbo-charged engine with an 8MJ hybrid system, the maximum permitted in the WEC. The car also features a number of aerodynamic changes following the revision of the technical regulations for the 2017 season.

“Our 2017 TS050 Hybrid represents a significant update; the only item which is not changed is the monocoque,” Toyota WEC technical chief Pascal Vasselon said.

“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 optimized 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.”

The updated TS050 Hybrid will get its first public run at Monza on Saturday before making its race debut at Silverstone on April 16 upon the start of the new WEC season.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.