Le Mans competition is coming
Forget the LaFerrari, P1, Regera, and 918. The real hybrid hypercars are those fielded in the World Endurance Championship. Here, both Toyota and Porsche dominate with their respective entries. Drastically different in terms of power units, these two teams want to challenge each other in the most grueling endurance races ever devised, including the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans. And with the first race just around the corner—April 15 at Silverstone—both teams have released their 2017 race cars, detailing the differences in how both aim to achieve total victory at this year’s Le Mans.
While both feature hybrid systems, that’s where the similarities end. Toyota’s TS050 Hybrid uses a newly-developed Higashi-Fuji 2.4-liter turbocharged V-6 engine coupled to an 8MJ lithium-ion high-power battery unit that combines to produce a staggering 986 horsepower. Additionally, Toyota’s team has further focused on chassis reinforcements and redesigns to ensure that it doesn’t suffer another heart-breaking near-win failure as it saw at Le Mans last year.
Toyota’s team president, Toshio Sato, told Motorsport, “The whole team is motivated and determined for this season. We want to win, there is no doubt about that, but we know it will be an incredibly tough fight with Porsche.”
As for the team from Stuttgart, they’ve been hard at work developing the 2017 car to dominate Circuit de la Sarthe, as well as the rest of the season. With the 2017 Porsche 919 Hybrid, Porsche is aiming to complete a hat-trick, winning at Le Mans for the third consecutive year, and the car itself looks the business as it’s been extensively revised with 60-70 percent of the car new or greatly redesigned for the 2017 season.
The 919 is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged V-4 engine that produces 493 horsepower in conjunction with two separate energy recovery systems that feed the car’s lithium-ion battery powering the front axle. In total, the battery generates an additional 400 horsepower, which gives the 919 Hybrid a net horsepower rating of 893 horsepower. While lower in power than the aforementioned Toyota, the 919 Hybrid aims to be the most efficient entrant, looking to stay out longer and require less fuel than the competition.
Further enhancements to the exterior of the race car were made to improve its aerodynamics, intakes, and other exterior bits in order to increase its downforce as well as top speed.
At the car’s launch, Fritz Enzinger, VP of LMP at Porsche, said, “Each and every one of the nine endurance races presents a challenge. Reliability is the basic requirement; six hours of navigating around the many cars in the different categories, each driving at different speeds, makes each race unpredictable — and ultimately it is often only seconds that separate the winner from the rest of the field. At four times the duration of other races, Le Mans forms the pinnacle of the series.”
And speaking of the competition, Enzinger elaborated with, “Toyota is set to be a very strong contender in the top-tier LMP1 category for the 2017 season. We will face up to them with a meticulously enhanced Porsche 919 Hybrid and a team of six first-class drivers.”
From these statements by both Porsche and Toyota, it appears the 2017 season will be hotly contested.