Following the unveiling of the latest generation Toyota Le Mans car, the Toyota TS040 Hybrid, Toyota Motorsport GmbH have revealed a photo set from their own collection. The photos document the Koln-based company’s private collection and gives a good history of their years spent at the top tier of endurance racing.
The Group C class was the pinnacle of endurance racing back when Toyota got started in 1992. The first car Toyota built to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans was the TS010. Originally designed for the 1992 World Sportscar Championship, TSO10 took part in the 1992 24 Hours of Le Mans, achieving a respectable 2nd place. It also competed at the 1993 event scoring 4th overall behind three Peugeot 905’s. The number 36 car in the photos is that very car, raced by Eddie Irvine, Toshio Suzuki and Masanori Sekiya. Its final season included the 1994 24 Hours of Le Mans in the newly created LMP1 class.
The most iconic Toyota Le Mans car (arguably) is the Toyota TS020 (also known as the Toyota GT-One). Built for the 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans, the GT-One competed in the GT1 and LMGTP class that year. Although the car was incredibly competitive, it suffered a number of incidents during the race and eventually finished in 9th place behind the Porsche 911 GT1’s. The car ran one more Le Mans event in 1998 where the car finished second with a team including Thierry Boutsen, Ralf Kelleners and Geoff Lee.
Aside from the distinctive shape and red body colour, the mechanicals are pretty unique too. The GT-One featured an R36V 3.6 L Turbo V8 engine pushing around 600 hp. The rules back in 1998 dictated that to enter a car in the GT1 class it needed to have road homologation of at least one production car. We read somewhere that Toyota exploited a loop-hole and managed to convince the Automobile Club de l’Ouest that the GT-One’s fuel tank could be used as storage space. The production car you see in the photos is one of just two ‘production’ TS020 GT-Ones – one is on display in its museum, the other in Japan.
The next Le Mans campaign Toyota fought was back in 2012 with the Toyota TS030. TS030 was another competitive car. Unfortunately it didn’t finish that year and Toyota were left to pick up the pieces and prepare for the 2013 season. At the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans, Toyota managed to score a fourth 2nd-place finish with Stephane Sarrazin, Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi.
The 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans will see Toyota’s TS040 compete against a powerful field. Both Porsche and Audi also have cars running, both have more history behind them than the Japanese company. Two Toyota teams will race including Alexander Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, and Kazuki Nakajima in car number 7 and Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sébastien Buemi in car number 8.
Will this be the year? Tune in on 14–15 June 2014 to find out! Excellent photos as always by GF Williams!