Inside Toyota Motorsport's Museum - Two Decades Of Le Mans
Toyota have a long history of creating stonkingly fast Le Mans challengers. This year is no exception with the 1000 horsepower TS040 Hybrid having been introduced last month. To whet our appetites for the 2014 race, Toyota Motorsport GmbH have thrown open the doors to their museum to show us the TS010, TS020 & TS030.
The Ts010 was introduced in 1992 as a response to rule changes that forced manufacturers to use naturally aspirated 3.5 litre V10s. Although this meant the car missed out on the larger, turbocharged engines of it’s predecessors, it could still reputedly produce over 700 horsepower. This was reduced to nearer 600 horsepower for endurance racers however.
This car was driven to 4th place in 1993 by Eddie Irvine, Toshio Suzuki and Masanori Sekiya in the last Le Mans to feature Group C. Unlike Formula 1, ground effects were totally legal giving huge amounts of downforce without much of the drag a larger wing would give. Even though much heavier, the Group C cars were very nearly as fast as the F1 cars of the day.
In 1998 & 1999 Toyota fielded the legendary TS020, also known as the GT-One. Featuring a heavily revised version of the faithful old 3.6 litre twin-turbo V8, it would prove to be one of the fastest petrol powered LMP cars. In line with the rules of the GT1 class, Toyota Motorsport produced 2 roadgoing versions of the TS020, one of which has been kept for the museum.
To allow the car to be registered for road use, the size of the wing was reduced, the ride height raised and catalytic converters fitted. The sparse cockpit of the racer received luxury appointments such as carpets and, er, a dashboard. I must admit to being surprised at how well trimmed it is though. There really is a production car look to the the dash and interior trim which I hadn’t expected from a run of 2 cars.
After a 13 year break, Toyota returned to Le Mans in 2012 with the TS030, the first petrol-electric hybrid to race in the World Endurance Championship. There was a return to natural aspiration with a 530bhp 3.4 litre V8 boosted by 300bhp of KERS to the rear wheels.
Although a win at Le Mans has escaped the TS030, it won in Sao Paulo, Fuji & Shanghai in 2012. Let’s hope that the lessons learned with this car will help Toyota finally break Audi’s stranglehold of Le Mans and be the first petrol car to win since Peugeot in 2009. Maybe then Toyota will show us some more of that Corolla WRC in the background….