Triple Le Mans winner Sebastien Buemi says he was surprised by the driving characteristics of Toyota’s new hybrid Hypercar, stating he expected it ‘feel like a GT car’
The new breed of top prototypes in the World Endurance Championshp will be slowed down considerably compared to their LMP1 predecessors a a result of cost-cutting measures.
The GR010 Hybrid, unveiled on Friday, will have less downforce than the TS050 Hybrid that took Buemi to three consecutive Le Mans victories. Additionally, Toyota states that the new car is 162kg heavier and with 32% less power.
Overall, Toyota expects the new car to be ten seconds slower over a lap at Le Mans’ Circuit de la Sarthe.
With less power, more weight and less downforce, Buemi admitted that he was surprised at how enjoyable the GR010 Hybrid is to drive.
“We have been waiting for this new era for a long time and finally we get to compete with our hypercar; I think it will be amazing,” he said. “I am really pleased with the GR010 HYBRID; it feels like a very good car and it looks stunning.
“Actually, I was not expecting to be as fun to drive as it is; I thought it would feel like a GT car. But we learned a lot during our LMP1 era and we used that knowledge to improve the new car, so it feels like a prototype and I really enjoy driving such a fast car.
“We are getting ready for the first race of the season when we want to fight for the win right from the start. It was great to succeed in LMP1 but now we want to do the same in the Le Mans Hypercar era.”
The main differences between the TS050 and GR010 prototypes are backed up by Toyota’s Project Leader Chassis, John Litjes. Litjens explains that aerodynamics have played a key role in the difference between the two cars.
“The biggest difference between the GR010 HYBRID and its predecessor is in terms of the aerodynamics,” Litjens said. “In the past, the regulations limited what was allowed in many areas but under the Le Mans Hypercar rules, all cars have to be within certain performance windows in terms of
downforce and drag, but there is more freedom allowed for the bodywork shapes and concepts. You can see the result of this freedom very clearly on the GR010 Hybrid.”
In addition, he explains that while the overall power for the GR010 Hybrid is down from the TS050 Hybrid, the 3.5 twin turbo V6 in the new car is actually more powerful, producing 680PS compared to the TS050’s 500PS.
Instead, the hybrid power has been capped with the GR010, which now comes in at 272PS compared to 500PS from the TS050.
“There is a similar principle on the powertrain side as well, with a given power curve but a lot of freedom in terms of configuration,” Litjens continued.
“The biggest change for us here was to move to only a front motor generator unit after five years with hybrid on both the front and rear axles. The packaging for the hybrid system was more challenging on this car because of updated safety standards.
“Additionally, the combustion engine is a more powerful on the GR010 HYBRID compared to the TS050 HYBRID. So it is a very different car both in appearance and in how it sounds.”