TOYOTA: RUNNER-UP SPECIALIST
“You can’t win unless you learn how to
lose,” said Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and
the six-time NBA champion and MVP
certainly did plenty of winning.
Toyota has definitely done plenty of
losing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans –
losing as in, not quite winning (LEFT).
So is 2017 finally the year when all of
that learning to lose will pay off?
The short answer is, it should be. But
winning Le Mans is a state of mind just
as much as a plan and a package, and
has Toyota truly got losing out of its
system yet? Has 2016’s excruciating,
last-lap defeat made it more resilient,
more determined to have an answer
to anything fate or circumstance can
throw at it? Or will it show up at
La Sarthe with a “what’s it going to be
this time?” attitude that can so easily
become a self-fulfilling prophecy?
If it does go to Le Mans ready to win,
as opposed to trying not to lose, the
good news is that the second-year
TS050 HYBRID certainly looks like a
package good enough to get the job
done. Last year’s switch from a 3.7-liter,
normally-aspirated V8 to a 2.4-liter,
twin-turbo V6, and from a super-capacitor energy-storage system to a
lithium-ion battery, meant much of the
season was spent developing the tech.
This year, it’s more about exploiting it to
the fullest – and in that respect, Toyota
has a lot more scope for progress
relative to the more mature and fully-realized package in Porsche’s 919.
Add in TS050’s potent low-downforce
aero kit (and 2017 LMP1 rules tweaks
that only reinforce its philosophy), a
relatively stable driver lineup and –
perhaps crucially – an extra bullet in
the gun from running a third car at Le
Mans for the first time, and this might
just be Toyota’s year – as long as it’s
done with learning how to lose...
With Toyota’s budget smaller than Porsche
and Le Mans its priority, it puts more of its
precious resource into its low-downforce kit.
PROS & CONS
Boutsen for second on the penultimate
lap, but ran out of time in his qualifying-paced pursuit of the winning 962LM.
Had the 94C-V prevailed, its drivers had
wanted to dedicate the win to their friend,
Roland Ratzenberger, who’d died on the
same San Marino GP weekend as Ayrton
Senna. Two years later, Krosnoff was killed
in a CART race on the streets of Toronto.
For Toyota, the frustration of 1994 – and
’ 92 – didn’t deter it from its quest to win
Le Mans. In ’ 99 it’s ferociously fast GT-One
machines played cat and mouse with BMW,
but high-speed accidents and a late-race
puncture saw it settling for second. Ditto
2013 with its TS030 LMP1 hybrid.
So will 2017 finally break the drought?
Sunday, June 18, 3pm, we’ll get an answer.
TOYOTA TEAM TOM’S - TOYOTA TS010
Masanori Sekiya, Pierre-Henri Raphanel, Kenny Acheson
TOYOTA MOTORSPORT - TOYOTA GT-ONE
Ukyo Katayama, Keiichi Tsuchiya, Toshio Suzuki
TOYOTA RACING - TOYOTA TS030 HYBRID
Anthony Davidson, Stephane Sarrazin, Sebastien Buemi
TOYOTA GAZOO RACING - TOYOTA TS050 HYBRID
Stephane Sarrazin, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi
SARD COMPANY LTD.
Eddie Irvine, Mauro Martini,
1994 was a year of flux at
Le Mans. The vastly-expensive “pseudo-F1”
sports prototypes from
Peugeot and Toyota had
gone, leaving the ACO
scrambling. In the end, a
mixture of emasculated
Group C cars, such as
SARD’s Toyota 94C-V
(LEFT), and rule-bending
GTs, like Dauer’s winning
Group C-based Porsche
962LM, headed the field.