Toyota's Le Mans history celebrated
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing has ensured a permanent place at the Circuit de la Sarthe by handing over a treasured piece of its Le Mans 24 Hours history to the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO).
The #8 TS050 HYBRID which won the 88th edition of the legendary race, in the hands of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley in September 2020, was officially presented on permanent loan to the Le Mans 24 Hours museum on Tuesday.
With 1,000PS and four-wheel-drive, weighing just 895kg, the TS050 HYBRID established itself as the ultimate LMP1 car, setting the fastest-ever lap of Le Mans in 2017, when Kamui Kobayashi recorded a time of 3mins 14.791secs at an average speed of 251.9km/h.
That was the first of four consecutive pole positions for a TS050 HYBRID, setting the scene for race wins in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Mike Conway set the record for the fastest race lap, at the wheel of the second-placed #7 TS050 HYBRID in 2019, with a 3mins 17.297secs lap, an average speed of 248.6km/h.
Team President Hisatake Murata joined ACO President Pierre Fillon for a handover ceremony inside the museum, where the TS050 HYBRID is the centrepiece of a unique exhibition celebrating Toyota's history at Le Mans.
Featuring iconic cars from key periods of Toyota's participation in the 24 Hours, which began in 1985, the exhibition explores the passion and technology, as well as the heartbreaks and triumphs, which have characterised the company's commitment to endurance racing.
Visitors to the museum start the journey with the rare sight of an early Toyota Le Mans challenger, the 86C Group C car in striking Leyton House colours, which raced in 1986 with Satoru Nakajima, Geoff Lees and Masanori Sekiya at the wheel.
Head to head and symbolising the rapid development which saw Toyota emerge as a true candidate for victory in the early 1990s are its final Group C car, the #33 TS010 from 1992 in legendary Casio livery, and the #1 94CV, a car modified to the new LMP1 regulations for 1994. Both cars finished second, the TS010 with Masanori Sekiya, Pierre Henri Raphanel and Kenny Acheson driving, and the 94CV being raced by Eddie Irvine, Mauro Martini and Jeff Krosnoff.
A break from prototype racing followed that 1994 runners-up finish and museum guests can get up close with the car which filled the gap for two years, the #27 Supra LM, raced in 1995 by Jeff Krosnoff, Marco Apicella and Mauro Martini.
Sure to be a fan favourite in the exhibition is the TS020, which captivated race fans in 1998 and 1999 with its exhilarating speed at La Sarthe while, for a new generation of enthusiasts, its prominent place in the Gran Turismo video game was a first introduction to a top-class Le Mans car. The #3 TS020 from 1999, which earned second place with Ukyo Katayama, Toshio Suzuki and Keiichi Tsuchiya awaits museum visitors.
Entering a new era, the #7 TS030 HYBRID earned its place in the history books by becoming the first hybrid Toyota to lead Le Mans, on its debut in 2012, when Alex Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima started a new chapter which would ultimately lead, finally, to Le Mans glory and a three consecutive victories for the TS050 HYBRID.
Fans attending the Le Mans 24 Hours this week to witness the new GR010 HYBRID Hypercar attempt to win at its first attempt have the opportunity to visit the Toyota exhibition, and the spectacular Le Mans museum, for free as a benefit of their race entrance ticket.
The Toyota exhibition runs until 20 February 2022 and is open daily. More information can be found at https://www.lemans-musee24h.com/.