Matthew Jones27 March 2014

First look: Toyota’s new Le Mans Racer

Meet the 986bhp Hybrid that’ll take on Audi and Porsche at this year’s 24 hour race

This is the 986bhp Toyota TS040 Le Mans prototype, revealed ahead of its first official test session tomorrow.

And it's quite mad. If you read our story about the new Audi R18 e-tron, you'll know that this year has seen the most rigorous change in endurance racing rules, well, ever and that teams are required to use 25 per cent less fuel than they did in 2013. Toyota's response has been using special majorly increasing the electric hybrid power.

The TS040 uses a new motor-generator on the front axle as well as the unit in the rear, which was fitted to last year's car. Under deceleration, the motor generators apply braking force in combination with the traditional mechanical brakes to gather up energy, which is transferred via an inverter to a super-capacitor. When the car accelerates, the motor-generators go in reverse, delivering a boot full of torque to all four wheels. Alongside the electro technokkake, there's a coal-fired 513bhp 3.7-litre petrol V8 engine.

The hybrid setup sits on a brand new chassis that's been built by Toyota Motorsport in Germany. Like fuel usage, LMP1 underpinnings have been subject to a few regulatory changes, including a maximum width reduced by 10cm and some additional safety features.

The new bodywork on top of it, which looks alarmingly bluff, is actually slipperier than ever. The outline's been honed in a wind tunnel to reduce drag, increase downforce and grip - another new championship reg is using narrower tyres, so it needs as much of the latter as it can get.

So, who'll be driving it? Toyota's chosen Alex Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima to share the Number 7 car, and Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sébastien Buemi in the Number 8.

Davidson says: "It's hard to know where our competition will be performance-wise. We are waiting to face them on track but you have to expect Audi will have done a good job and will probably be the one to beat despite Porsche's heritage in this category. The target is clear for us: winning races and of course Le Mans, which remains the main goal and the race I want to win."

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