'Hypercar marks a return to "pure racing", say Toyota sports car drivers'

Sports Car News

Buemi, Hartley and Nakajima enthusiastically describe Toyota's new Hypercar as "fun, pure racing" and say it puts greater emphasis on the driver

Toyota GR010 HYBRID 4

Buemi has emphasised the "flat-out" approach required to drove the Hypercar, resulting in a more enjoyable driving experience

Toyota

The new generation of top-level sports cars promises a return to “pure racing”, with close competition, no need for fuel saving and more enjoyment for drivers, according to Toyota’s no8 car line-up.

Speaking at the launch of Toyota’s GR010 Hypercar, the 2020 Le Mans winning drivers Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima elaborated on what made the car more “pleasurable” to drive as soon as they left the garage.

Toyota GR010 HYBRID

The Toyota’s 4WD is thought two give it a wet advantage, but drivers still think the racing will be close

Toyota

“We got to drive the car quite a few times already, and the first impressions are pretty good,” said Buemi.

“The fact that we don’t have to save fuel per lap like we used to do with the TS050 is a nice feeling. You can stay flat till the end of the straight and brake as late as you want – that gives a feeling to be back in ‘pure racing’. I’m really happy to drive the car – the performance is much better than I expected. [With] less downforce, [and] less power, you don’t feel like you’re going slower.”

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Hartley backed up Buemi’s comments:

“The fuel-saving aspect is very different from what we had before, so we’re attacking the braking phases more,” the New Zealander said.

“It’s a heavier car with less downforce, but it’s [still] very direct in steering. We’ve talked about the pleasure of driving it, all of us were all pleasantly surprised by the enjoyment we got.”

Designed and developed over the last eighteen month, Toyota’s new hybrid challenger utilises a four-wheel drive system. A 3.5 litre V6 twin-turbo powers the rear axle with up to 680bhp, whilst a motor-generator unit provides 270bhp to the front wheels and recovers energy to charge the lithium-ion battery.

While some powertrain technology has been carried over from the Hypercar’s predecessor, this still represents a relatively significant departure from last year’s all-conquering TS050 LMP1, which had two motor-generator units powering each axle, as opposed to this single front-mounted one.

The changes will force drivers to change their technique when dealing with traffic, said Hartley.

“It’s going to be really different, the dynamic of how we approach the traffic,” the New Zealander emphasised.

“It will be very important to put the perfect race together. More is going to come down to the driver”

“The way we accelerate will be different. Before, we had 1000bhp. We accelerated like a rocket and then we more or less flatlined and then decelerated before we braked.

“Now it’s a much more conventional power-curve and speed trace, we’re accelerating for the whole straight so you won’t see us rocket past out of the corners. We’re now going to be more often diving in under the brakes.

“Also the LMP2 and GTE cars, they’re going to have to adapt when they see us in the mirrors.

“That said, we’ll have a much heavier car with less downforce, so we won’t be braking much later than an LMP2 car either. There’s still much to learn and management within a race scenario. That’s part of the job and part of the race.

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All three no8 Toyota drivers also emphasised how, with stringent BoP regulations bringing cars closer together, the onus was on the driver to put in a flawless performance.

“The total power output will be the same, I expect the fight against ByKolles and Glickenhaus to not be easy,” said Buemi. “It’s going to be about doing a good job in the race and not making mistakes. Of course I’m looking forward to the arrival of Porsche, Audi and Peugeot. I can’t wait to get into this new era of endurance racing!”

Hartley echoed the sentiments. “It’s going to be very important to put the perfect race together,” he said. “Extracting performance becomes important. Not making a mistake, getting that risk and reward. More is going to come down to the driver and getting the race together.”

Nakajima said: “The racing will be even closer than before – everyone will have a chance to win.”

The first round of the 2021 WEC season is due to be at Sebring on 19 March.