Back in March, we noted that both Toyota and Audi were developing hybrid-electric racing cars. At the time we said,
“Toyota has introduced the TS030 Hybrid with its THS-R hybrid propulsion system. Designed to compete under new rules in the World Endurance Championship series—think 24 Hours of LeMans and other races—Toyota combines a 3.4l V-8 gas engine with an electric supplemental system. The car uses energy recovery under braking, stores the energy in a beefy capacitor and returns it to the wheels during acceleration. The current rules allow the electro-drive to only the front or rear wheels, not both, and the company was still mulling which solution to use when the car was introduced.
Not to be outdone, Audi, whose turbo-diesel racers dominated the class for a while, has just pulled the covers from its R18 e-tron Quattro. Besides the V-5 TDI racing engine, this one also recovers brake energy but stores it in a flywheel system and returns it to the front wheels. Audi feels this gives them a distinct advantage with momentary all-wheel drive.”
Both cars were supposed to make their racing debuts at the FIA World Endurance Championship race at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium earlier this month but fate intervened. The TS030 suffered a wet-track accident during pre-season testing and crashed hard enough to damage the carbon fiber monocoque.
Toyota did not have a second car ready and announced that the damage could not be repaired safely in time for the race at Spa. However, the red car did make the trip and posed with its competitor for photos during the weekend.
In view of the extra power supplied by the electric systems, this pair could be the metaphorical Adam and Eve for a new generation of international race cars. Developers and teams are watching the performance (and cost) of the new cars very closely.
At the end of the six hour race in Belgium, Audi had swept the top four places with the two E-trons claiming second and fourth overall. The second place car turned a best-lap time half a second faster than the turbo-diesel race winner.
Toyota says it expects to have the TS030 repaired and tested again in time for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. The French race has always been about corporate bragging rights—Ford vs. Ferrari, Corvette vs. Porsche, and so on. With the now revealed performance of a hybrid power train, it should be a very interesting race for a number of reasons.