Most of the hype over this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans and World Endurance Championship has been Porsche's return to the sport and their looming battle with corporate cousins Audi. But they're not the only ones who will be vying for the title! Meet Toyota's latest hybrid contender.
This is the Toyota TS040 Hybrid, the sequel to last year's TS030 Hybrid. Unveiled earlier today at the Paul Ricard circuit in the South of France, Toyota says it represents the most advanced hybrid technology in modern racing, which is a hell of a claim to make considering the fierce competition it will face.
The biggest change is that the car is now all-wheel drive. The new car packs a 3.7-liter gasoline V8 engine supplemented for the first time ever with an Aisin generator up front and a Denso unit in the rear. That's 513 horsepower from the V8 and 473 horsepower from the electric systems. Together, the powerplants put the car close to 1,000 horsepower.
Power isn't the only reason the hybrid system is more prominent this year, Toyota says. The teams are now required to use 25 percent less fuel than in 2013, which has resulted in various powertrain and aerodynamic changes.
The car keeps its red, white and blue livery from last year, but I think it looks even sexier this time around. It's a visually striking race car for sure.
Toyota says they have reshuffled their driver lineup for 2014 with Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima in one car (but not at the same time, obviously) and Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sébastien Buemi in the other (again, one at a time.)
The FIA World Endurance Championship opens in April and Le Mans is in June. We'll see if Toyota's car has what it takes to duke it out with longtime favorite Audi and exciting newcomer Porsche.