Toyota GR010 Hybrid: Meet The Hypercar To Beat At Le Mans
That is of course assuming Toyota does not become its own worst enemy as it ushers in a new dawn for sports-prototypes.
You've seen the teasers. You've followed the rumours. Now, Toyota unveils the GR010 hypercar, and the mission statement is simple: win Le Mans and be an endurance sportscar champion.
The all-new Le Mans Hypercar class welcomes its first challenger hailing from the incumbent title holder of the manufacturer's crown, and the new GR010 is Toyota's entry into the new class that takes what they've learned since 2013 and adapting it to the new regulations.
That means a power cap of 670 horsepower, but the car has a total of 952hp on tap thanks to the 680hp twin-turbo V6 (larger than the old engine in the TS050) connected to the rear wheels with a new 7-speed gearbox and a 272hp electric unit at the front axle -- there's no second hybrid unit at the back here. Electronic systems inside the car ensure that power stays within the mandated 670hp threshold by balancing out the hybrid boost used on the car, so it stays within the limit in competition.
According to technical director Pascal Vasselon, that means "install a starter motor and fully hydraulic rear brakes for the first time in our WEC project." He adds: "Following the regulations, our car will have one bodywork specification to handle all circuits, so we needed to provide a wider working window for this car."
It's also dimensionally bigger, much heavier (162kg more) and produces less downforce than the TS050 LMP1 car, which means its handling characteristics are different, as its driver lineup says in the official press kit and the video above. But don't think for a second that they don't like it: they do. Mike Conway, driving Toyota-7, says he already feels "at home in it", while Sebastian Buemi (Toyota-8) was thrilled that the car didn't handle like a GT car as he expected, noting "feels like a prototype and I really enjoy driving such a fast car".
And for Hisatake Murata, Gazoo Racing team president, this is just a taste of things to come: "The GR010 HYBRID is a preview of our road-going cars and what we learn on the WEC race tracks will directly benefit our customers." Which means the GR Super Sport road car is still coming soon, and that the lessons learned from the racer will be transferred to the street car.
The GR Super Sport has been teased again after completing tests at Le Mans -- with the top off [UPDATE: Now with video]
Whether or not Toyota has what it takes to follow through in the six-round 2021 season remains to be seen, but so far, I say the car looks great. The livery takes after the later cars, but Toyota must have seen Porsche's old 2015 liveries and thought "hmm, might crib it" and emblazoned big GR letters on the car itself (hard to see without an overhead shot).
The new GR010 will be racing at Sebring this year as part of the WEC's first round this coming March, so it'd be interesting to see how it can take on the second-toughest course on the calendar leading up to the big show at Le Mans. Unfortunately, James Glickenhaus and is 007 Hypercar isn't racing at Sebring owing to health concerns and so they can buy more time, so other than ByKolles and Alpine (who are running a grandfathered LMP1 car), Toyota will be starting the show on their own. Still, I'd be hard-pressed to say that Toyota will run away with a win -- they've seen more heartbreak in LMP1 than any other team in their class, after all.
For all intents and purposes, Toyota has a big "KICK ME" tag on its back, one that Glickanhaus and Peugeot will be chomping at the nip to oblige. Let's see if they can follow through.