By Tamami Laser; with Nahoko Osuka reporting from Japan
Toyota Racing says it’s ready to launch the defence of its two world titles in the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship. Last year Toyota became the first Japanese company to claim the WEC manufacturer’s championship in a successful season that also saw its drivers Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Buemi share the drivers’ title.
In this new generation of racing where energy efficiency is a key performance factor, Toyota’s TS040 Hybrid proved itself the class of the field last season, taking five wins from eight races. Toyota says its championship-winning car has been updated for 2015, with revised aerodynamics, a new front-end design and changes to the suspension to improve tire wear. Weight-saving measures have also been introduced. It will again compete in the championship’s 6MJ hybrid category, with the benefit of modifications to its supercapacitor to increase performance.
Team Toyota has prepared two aerodynamic packages for 2015, both of which are being tested at the Paul Ricard circuit in France this week. The Le Mans option is said to be better suited to the high-speed track used for the 24-hour race, while the sprint package is designed to generate higher levels of downforce.
Toyota’s development program began after last year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. The revised car was tested for the first time, at Paul Ricard, on January 13. Two further three-day tests at different tracks have allowed the team to complete more than 25,000km prior to today’s launch.
British driver Davidson and his Swiss team-mate Buemi will share the Number 1 car with Kazuki Nakajima (Japan), who is scheduled to complete his first full WEC season.
The Number 2 car will feature Alex Wurz (Austria) and Stéphane Sarrazin (France) with Briton Mike Conway. Conway was previously the team’s test and reserve driver and was called up to race three times in 2014, including a race-winning appearance in the Six Hours of Bahrain.
Former Toyota Formula 1 driver Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) is the new test and reserve driver. The Japanese pilot will combine his duties with a Super Formula campaign in Japan. Nicolas Lapierre (France) steps back after three seasons in the race crew, but will be available for test and development duties throughout the season.
Toyota Motorsport’s President Yoshiaki Kinoshita is returning to Japan in April. Having secured the long-term future of the WEC project, won the World Championship and sealed a return to the World Rally Championship, his mission is complete and he will depart after the Six Hours of Silverstone.
The new Team President will be Toshio Sato. He returns to Toyota Motorsport having worked for several years as a senior engine engineer on the F1 project. He brings with him a wealth of experience in hybrid technology, having been responsible for both Toyota and Lexus hybrid system development.
As well as changes in personnel and technology, Toyota Racing has also adapted to revised regulations for 2015.
Teams are now limited to a maximum of five engines per car for the entire season, although none of the team’s cars exceeded this limit in any of the previous three seasons. Additional limits apply to tire usage, with four sets of slicks allowed during practice and six for qualifying and the race, except in Bahrain and Shanghai where eight sets are permitted, with 11 sets permitted during the Le Mans race.
Flexibility limits have been introduced for bodywork items such as the splitter, the rear wing, diffuser and plank, while the car is now subject to added ballast when, as is the case with the #1 and #2 crews, the average driver weight is less than 80kg.
Those new regulations will apply when the season kicks off at Silverstone on April 12, followed by Spa-Francorchamps on May 2. The Le Mans 24 Hours is the annual highlight on June 14 while Nürburgring (August 30) is a new addition. The eight-race campaign concludes with races in Austin (September 10), Fuji Speedway (October 11), Shanghai (November 1) and Bahrain (November 21).
News source and photos from Toyota Motorsport and Toyota Motor Corp.
Story ©2015 CarNichiWa.com