Toyota Reveals TS050 For 2016 WEC, Adds Kobayashi To Driver Lineup

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Toyota has revealed its new hybrid Le Mans prototype that will compete in the 2016 World Endurance Championship, the highest echelon for endurance racing and whose highlight is the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The car is the TS050 Hybrid, which like it its TS040 predecessor will compete in the premier LMP1 Hybrid class alongside similar prototypes from Audi and Porsche. Unfortunately, Nissan has confirmed its own LMP1 project has been canned.

Toyota, which won the title in 2014 but lost it to Porsche last year, will field two TS050s under the new banner Toyota Gazoo Racing, one wearing the number 5 and the other the number 6. The number 5 car will be piloted by returning drivers Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima. The number 6 car will be piloted by Stéphane Sarrazin and Mike Conway, who are also returning. Also driving the number 6 car will be Kamui Kobayashi, who replaces recently retired Alex Wurz.

Kobayashi is a former Formula One driver who previously drove for Toyota’s F1 team, as well as Caterham and Sauber. He’s also driven in the WEC’s GT class for Ferrari [NYSE:RACE] partner AF Corse, and most recently he was serving as a test and reserve driver for Toyota’s WEC team.

“I’m really excited to be an LMP1 race driver and I would like to thank Toyota for this opportunity,” Kobayashi said in a statement. “I tested the TS040 Hybrid a few times and it was a seriously impressive car; the power of the hybrid system in particular was amazing.”

Toyota is yet to reveal technical details for its TS050 but the car is expected to retain the naturally aspirated V-8 engine and twin electric motor design of the TS040. The engine works in conjunction with an electric motor at both axles, and together they bring the output to around 1,000 horsepower. One of the motors aids the engine at the rear wheels while the second motor creates an all-wheel-drive system by powering the front pair. The motors also recapture energy under braking and store this in a capacitor-based storage system.

The latest car, which has been developed by Toyota Motorsport Gmbh based in Cologne, Germany, also adopts a new black, red and white livery. The new color scheme, which drops the blue of the previous cars, highlights the new partnership between Toyota and Gazoo.

The 2016 WEC will host its first race at the Silverstone Circuit on April 17. Round three, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, will take place in June. Organizers have announced there will be 60 cars taking to the grid at the French race, a capacity not seen since 1955.

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